One charged after Enoch Burke loses appeal against Wilson’s Hospital School amid chaotic courtroom scenes

Burke accused gardaí of being ‘thugs’ as members of force attempted to remove family members after they refused to leave voluntarily

Amid unprecedented and chaotic scenes at the Court of Appeal (COA) on Tuesday, Enoch Burke lost an appeal aimed at overturning court orders preventing him from teaching or attending a Co Westmeath school.

One person was arrested, and later charged, after members of the Burke family were removed from court.

The three-judge court, in three separate judgments, dismissed the appeal. The delivery of the judgments was interrupted twice, with the court ultimately rising and delivering the judgments electronically.

Mr Burke, accompanied by his parents Martina and Seán, sister Ammi and brothers Isaac and Simeon, were in the packed court for the delivery of judgments of the COA president, Mr Justice George Birmingham, Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Máire Whelan.


The delivery of the judgments was interrupted for a time after Ammi Burke, her mother and other members of the family stood and shouted at the judges when Mr Justice Birmingham agreed with a finding by one of the High Court judges under appeal that the case was not about transgenderism.

The judges left the bench for a short period and when they returned, Mr Justice Birmingham said if there were further interruptions, the court would rise.

Within about two minutes, there were further interruptions and shouting and the judges again left. Ammi Burke was dragged from the court by gardaí and there were angry exchanges between the Burkes and gardaí as they sought to escort the remaining family members from the court.

Enoch Burke accused gardaí of being “thugs” and there were shouts to “leave my father alone” and “get your hands off him” as several gardaí attempted to remove the members of the family after they refused to leave voluntarily.

Martina Burke and other family members repeatedly said the court was “prostrate at the altar of transgenderism”.

Gardaí repeatedly asked members of the family to leave and, when they refused to do so, physically removed them. Enoch Burke clung to the seat and told gardaí to take their hands off his mother as gardaí took her from the court.

Enoch Burke repeatedly said “we are entitled to our rights” and “our beliefs” and entitled to have the judges vindicate them. He and his brother Isaac were the last two family members to be taken from the courtroom and both were forcibly removed.

Among the findings of the court today, Mr Justice Birmingham agreed with the High Court the case was not about transgenderism or about Mr Burke’s religious beliefs.

Against the background of the statute law of the State, the decision of the principal and the school to facilitate the transitioning student was not “an outlier”. He did not find the school’s approach in this matter at all surprising, he said.

The appeal, heard on February 16th, was against injunctions granted by High Court judges last August and September to Wilson’s Hospital School in Multyfarnham.

It sought the orders when Mr Burke continued to attend the school after it had placed him on paid administrative leave pending a disciplinary process.

That process was grounded on an August 2022 report by then principal, Niamh McShane, which concerned, among other things, Mr Burke’s publicly voiced opposition at the close of a school religious service in June 2022, and at a dinner afterwards, to a May 2022 direction from her asking teachers to abide by the wishes of a transitioning student and their parents to address the student by a new name and using the pronoun, they.

A disciplinary hearing proceeded on January 19th last and resulted in the school’s board of management issuing a notice of dismissal to Mr Burke. It is understood the time to appeal that notice has not expired.

In the interim, Mr Burke was jailed for 108 days for contempt of the orders restraining him attending at the school. He was released just before Christmas without purging his contempt but, after he resumed attending at the school on January 5th, it obtained orders imposing fines of €700 daily, applicable from January 27th, to apply until he purges his contempt.

The fines stood at €28,000 today.

Simeon Burke, of Cloonsunna, Castlebar, Co Mayo, was later charged at Dublin District Court with engaging in threatening, insulting and abusive words and behaviour at the Court of Appeal.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times