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FF senator hits out at “heavy-handed” treatment of Enoch Burke

Enoch Burke’s treatment at the hands of the courts was “heavy-handed” and the teacher should not be in prison, according to one Fianna Fáil Senator.

The comments were made this week by Deputy Leader of the Seanad, Lisa Chambers, in reference to Burke’s ongoing situation.

When Burke was asked to refer to a gender “non-binary” student by “they/them” pronouns, he refused, saying that to do so would compromise his religious beliefs as a devout Christian.

For this he was suspended from his job as a History and German teacher at Wilson’s Hospital School, Co. Westmeath, and a High Court injunction ordered him to stay away from the college. He chose to violate this injunction, going to the college anyway, and was subsequently arrested and jailed in Mount Joy, where he has been kept since.

Reacting to the affair, Chambers said that she was “aware of the situation,” and felt that Burke’s actions “fall on the lower end of the scale in terms of offences.”

“I was surprised to see [Burke] ended up in Mountjoy Prison, which is usually home to some more serious offenders,” she said.

Notably, Burke has been moved to the main prisoner population, and reportedly put in a cell near to an alleged Kinahan cartel gangster accused of involvement in murdering a father of four.

“I think the matter should be expedited,” continued Chambers.

“Having spoken to the governor of Mountjoy previously on a visit, he would be of the view that there are many people in that prison who should not be there and would be better served with other solutions, and I believe Enoch Burke is one of those people.”

At this point Independent Senator Rónán Mullen interjected, saying that Burke’s case was a “civil matter rather than a criminal one.”

“Obviously, the rule of law is paramount,” Chambers replied.

“The charge against him in terms of contempt of court was correct and he does need to come forward on that front, but I do take the Senator’s point that it seems a very heavy-handed outcome in terms of the actual offence.

“Rather than getting into it, I would agree with the Senator that trial by Twitter is not the way we should be doing things. Sometimes the first voice out can be the loudest and can silence other voices. I also believe in the freedom of private citizens to make their own decisions. It is not for everyone to jump on the bandwagon. It was an unsavoury episode that we can learn a lot from.”


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