Search icon


06th Sep 2022

Teacher jailed after breaking court order in divisive transgender row


Enoch Burke refused to use gender-neutral pronouns for a transgender student

A teacher has been sent to prison after he breached a court order stemming from his refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns for a transgender student of his.

Enoch Burke was arrested after he continued to turn up to Westmeath school in Leinster, Ireland, despite being ordered to stay away.

Counsel for Wilson’s Hospital School’s board of management said it was with a ‘heavy heart’ that it sought Mr Burke’s committal to prison, but she said her client had been left with no choice as he continued to attend the school, despite the court order which it had obtained last week.


After Judge Michael Quinn made his ruling, Mr Burke said: “It is insanity that I will be led from this courtroom to a place of incarceration, but I will not give up my Christian beliefs.”

The dispute began over his refusal to address a transitioning student as ‘they’ rather than ‘he’, as requested by the student and their parents in May, and agreed to by the Church of Ireland school.

This escalated to his suspension on the day before the start of the autumn term, pending the outcome of a disciplinary process.

He had refused to remain away from the school on paid leave for that suspension, the court heard, and would sit in an empty classroom, declaring that he was there to work.

Mr Burke told Judge Quinn: “I am a teacher and I don’t want to go to prison. I want to be in my classroom today, that’s where I was this morning when I was arrested.”

He said he loved his students, to whom he teaches German, history and politics, as well as debating.

“I love my school, with its motto Res Non Verba, actions not words, but I am here today because I said I would not call a boy a girl.”

He added: “Transgenderism is against my Christian belief. It is contrary to the scriptures, contrary to the ethos of the Church of Ireland and of my school.”

“Religious beliefs”

Referring to his suspension, Mr Burke said: “It is extraordinary and reprehensible that someone’s religious beliefs on this matter could ever be taken as grounds for an allegation of misconduct.

“My religious beliefs are not misconduct. They are not gross misconduct. They never will be. They are dear to me. I will never deny them and never betray them, and I will never bow to an order that would require me to do so. It is just not possible for me to do that.”

He described his suspension as “unreasonable, unjust and unfair”. He added that the ruling had “tarnished” his good character and his “good name”, as well as the “profession of a teacher”.


Counsel for Wilson’s Hospital School’s board of management said they are “simply seeking to have Mr Burke comply with the order” following the ruling.

“Mr Burke is knowingly in breach of this order, he is therefore in contempt and he has made it clear that if he is not committed to prison he will attend at the school [today], and the concerns of the school regarding the ongoing disruption to the students remain,” she added.

She noted that Mr Burke could make his arguments at court tomorrow, when the injunction obtained last week is due to be reviewed, and at the school’s disciplinary hearing this month.

Judge Quinn said he was not ruling on the merits of Mr Burke’s arguments regarding his religious belief or his suspension, but merely on the question of whether there had been a wilful breach of a court order.

He said that Mr Burke could purge his contempt at any stage, by agreeing to the order not to attend the school or attempt to teach there.

Related links: