Four siblings have begun a civil action against the National University of Ireland, Galway claiming they were discriminated against and victimised by college authorities because of their religious beliefs seven years ago.

Brothers Isaac and Enoch Burke and their sisters Kezia and Ammi, from Co Mayo, were all students at NUI Galway when they claim they were banned for life in November 2014 from being members of the college student societies.

All four are members of the Christian Union Society, which promotes Christian beliefs based on the authority of the scriptures. The society held meetings and events at the college and had 127 members in 2014.

The four were also committee members of the Life Society at the college, which promoted a pro-life message.

The case is being heard before Judge Raymond Groarke at Loughrea Circuit Court.

In his evidence, Isaac Burke said he received an email from the USCG, the university society co-ordination group that deals with the governance of college societies, on 10 November 2014 informing him he was barred from active membership of all societies at NUI Galway. His siblings received similar emails.

Prior to this, he said, they had had a difficult year in which their posters had been ripped down at various locations around the campus.

Mr Burke said they had been subjected to a campaign of intimidation by a group that he described as being on the left, and which were opposed to their religious beliefs.

When he complained about this he felt the college authorities did not deal genuinely with them, and felt they were being lead around the garden path.

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Six months after complaining about the poster issue it was dismissed.

On 12 March 2014, a referendum was happening on campus about same-sex marriage. They had put up 23 posters quoting scripture and advocating a 'No' vote. He said they felt they had a right to express those views. Within an hour, 20 of the posters were ripped down, the court heard.

His sister Ammi was supervising a Christian Union table that day with information and leaflets when an individual grabbed the table in a fit of anger, scrunching up the leaflets, which were then strewn on the floor. When security was informed, their response was to close the table down.

Mr Burke claimed this action was undertaken by a group of activists on the left, who held contrary views to theirs.

He said a 'taste of hell' followed when news of what happened spread around the campus, there were people celebrating and cheering and mocking them.

They were also subjected to abuse on social media, including an alleged death threat to his brother Enoch.

NUI Galway denies the claims and cannot accept the four were banned for life or that it had anything to do with their religious beliefs.

The court was told they were barred for four-and-a-half years, which was imposed for alleged misappropriation of university funds and benefits.

The proceedings, in which the four siblings are representing themselves, are due to continue for three days.