Teacher Enoch Burke was this afternoon indefinitely committed to Mountjoy Prison by Judge Michael Quinn, having been found in contempt of court.
Mr. Burke refused to give an undertaking to the court that he would comply with the terms of an injunction barring him from the grounds of the school where he is employed, pending disciplinary proceedings.
Mr. Burke was suspended by Wilson’s School, a Church of Ireland diocesan school in Co. Westmeath, last week following a dispute about how to correctly address a transgender student. The school said that they expected Mr. Burke to address the student by their “new” pronouns, while Mr. Burke insisted that he would continue to address the student by the gender of their birth.
Following the dispute, and an alleged public altercation between Mr. Burke and the school’s principal, Mr. Burke was placed on administrative leave, on full pay, pending disciplinary action.
However, it is understood that Mr. Burke continued to present for work as normal, notwithstanding this suspension. The school then sought, and received, an injunction preventing Mr. Burke from entering the school grounds pending the outcome of the disciplinary action. Mr. Burke did not comply with this injunction, which led to his arrest, and appearance before the court today.
Addressing the court this afternoon, Mr. Burke, who is representing himself without legal assistance, described himself as a “prisoner of conscience”.
He also said that it would be “impossible” for him to comply with the school’s expectation in relation to the transgender student as to do so would be “violating his conscience”.
Mr. Burke is now in Mountjoy prison, where the court ordered that he would remain until such time as he either “purged his contempt” – which in this case would be to give an undertaking not to attend the school – or until further order of the court.