The application to arrest Enoch Burke, a secondary school teacher who allegedly breached an injunction that ordered him to stay away from Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath where he is employed, has been adjourned until Monday, September 5.
Burke, from Co Mayo, had been put on paid administrative leave pending disciplinary proceedings at the secondary school where he teaches “following a public confrontation with the principal at a school event in June,” RTÉ reports.
The alleged confrontation stemmed from Burke’s opposition to referring to a student who wishes to transition by a new name and “they” pronouns.
On Tuesday, the school’s board of management secured a temporary High Court order against Burke ordering him not to attend or teach any classes at the school after the school board claimed that Burke was not abiding by the terms of his suspension by attending the school.
Burke, who alleges his suspension is unlawful, continued to attend the school this week in an apparent breach of the court order.
The Journal reports that given Burke’s continued actions, counsel for the school board felt that it had been left with “no choice” other than to bring the motion seeking Burke’s arrest.
Justice O’Regan granted the motion and directed that An Garda Síochana be made aware of the making of the order for Burke’s attachment.
Judge O’Regan initially said it was a matter for the gardaí as to when it would be possible to arrest Burke and bring him before the court. However, when the matter was briefly mentioned before the High Court after lunch, the court was told that while the gardaí had been contacted about the matter, the order had not yet been perfected.
Counsel said while a lot of work was being done, until that process has been completed, the gardaí were not in a position to detain Burke. The judge agreed with counsel that the case should be adjourned to Monday’s vacation sitting of the High Court.
Burke had been made aware of the court’s decision to grant the order for his arrest, counsel added.
The school board is pursuing legal action against Burke as a “last resort,” counsel said, which added that the school board alleges that Burke’s actions may be disruptive to the school’s students at the beginning of the new academic year.
It is alleged that at a school event in June, Burke raised his objections to a request from a student who wishes to transition, the student’s parents, and the school to refer to the student by a new name and to use the “they” pronoun.
The school claims that Burke interrupted the service and dinner in June, which was attended by clergy, staff, past and present pupils, parents, and board members, to raise his objections.
Burke allegedly told the school’s principal, Niamh McShane, that she should withdraw the earlier demand regarding the transitioning of the student, that he could not agree with transgenderism, and that it went against the school’s ethos and the teaching of the Church of Ireland, RTE reports.
The school claims that after the event, Burke again approached McShane and again asked her to withdraw the request. The school claims McShane walked away from Burke after telling him she would speak to him at an appropriate time, but he continued to follow her and questioned her loudly.
A disciplinary process was commenced afterward and a decision was taken to place Burke on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the process.
Burke allegedly claimed that the school’s request to refer to a student by a different name and pronoun represented a breach of constitutional rights, while he also allegedly accused the school of forcing a belief system on its students.
The school denied Burke’s claim that anyone was “forced” to do anything. The school said it made the request for the student to be referred to by a new name and pronoun in accordance with the 2000 Equal Status Act of not discriminating against any student.
The school has yet to make any finding against Burke and he has not been sanctioned.
Burke is from a family of evangelical Christians in Co Mayo known for their strident religious beliefs. The family is known for launching campaigns against issues such as abortion and marriage equality.