Lawyers for Wilson's Hospital Secondary School have told the High Court that the school’s sole objective was to help a student, not to promote a particular view of the world or to challenge the religious beliefs of teacher, Enoch Burke.
The submission was made by Senior Counsel Mark Connaughton on the first day of the school’s case against Mr Burke.
The case was opened in the absence of Mr Burke who was not allowed into the courtroom by the judge after spending the morning interrupting proceedings and refusing to abide by the court’s ruling on the disclosure of documents.
The court must decide if the school correctly invoked a disciplinary process against Mr Burke in August last year and if it was correct to suspend him.
Mr Burke is counterclaiming that the school was not correct to discipline him, suspend him or dismiss him.
Mr Connaughton said that in May 2022 there was a meeting with a student and a note was issued by the then principal to all staff indicating the student should be addressed by a different name and that neutral language should be used to indicate gender.
Mr Connaughton said a similar situation had arisen in relation to a different student in November 2021.
The principal had issued a similar communication to staff, including Mr Burke and no issue had been raised.
But he said this time, from the outset Mr Burke had set his face against this.
He said Mr Burke had interjected quite inappropriately at a staff meeting the day after the principal first issued her request.
Mr Connaughton said Mr Burke would countenance no other view of the matter other than facilitating this request would be contrary to his beliefs and the ethos of the school.
He said Mr Burke "simply could not consider" in any way compromising or engaging with the principal to see if a middle ground could be reached.
Mr Connaughton said the court would hear significant evidence that the school was not on some mission to promote a particular view to the world.
It was not attempting to challenge Mr Burke’s beliefs, he said.
It was simply trying to fulfil its duty and obligations to the student to help to facilitate them and develop their education in the school.
Mr Connaughton described to the court the "core conduct" on behalf of Mr Burke that the school was complaining about.
He said Mr Burke would give his own account of his actions at the end of a school service and after a dinner in June last year.
Mr Burke's contention was that what he did and said was respectful, Mr Connaughton said, but the school would have a very different view.
He said Mr Burke harangued the then principal at the dinner.
She found his behaviour "challenging" and others escorted her away from the function because they felt that if Mr Burke wasn't kept away from her, he would continue to harangue her.
Mr Connaughton said the principal got a new job and was leaving in August 2022 but was determined to bring the matter to the attention of the school’s board of management.
He said the school had not begun this legal action lightly but was in the invidious position that it had a teacher who was absolutely determined not to comply with an instruction from the principal but would not broach any discussion or compromise unless the approach he was advocating for was taken.
Mr Connaughton said Mr Burke had previously said he did not intend to call any witnesses but over the weekend he had subpoenaed a number of people.
He told the court that at 10.50pm last night, Mr Burke had attended at the home of the chairman of the board of Management John Rogers attempting to serve a subpoena on him.
Mr Burke and his family left the Four Courts before the school began outlining its case after Mr Justice Alex Owens directed that he was not to be allowed back into the courtroom after lunch.
The case was due to start in the morning, but was delayed, as Mr Burke repeatedly raised issues about the disclosure of documents to him and refused to accept the court’s ruling on the matter.
The judge eventually directed that Mr Burke be given facilities to watch the proceedings remotely and said he could come back into court when he was ready to behave himself and comply with court orders.
Mr Burke stood outside the court for a short while as gardaí prevented him from entering the courtroom.
Mr Justice Owens said he could come back in if he was willing to give an undertaking that he would comply with court directions and orders.
His sister Ammi said Mr Burke wanted to address the court and gardaí would not let him in. She asked if the judge was denying her brother justice.
When she alleged that Mr Burke was not being let in because he would not agree with false statements put forward by the school, the judge threatened to have Ms Burke removed from the court as well.
Ms Burke, her brother Isaac and their mother Martina then left the courtroom and the Four Courts.
Mr Burke had repeatedly accused the school's lawyers of tampering with documents and telling lies and demanded that the judge make an order in his favour.
He said he discovered the day before that documents he had been given, had in fact "tampered with" and explained to the judge that one version of an email had white space, while another showed a line had been redacted.
He also said he had not received a document that was attached to a WhatsApp message.
After some discussion, senior counsel Alex White for the school said the school would address all matters raised by Mr Burke yesterday and would deal with any further issues if he put them in writing.
Mr White said he wanted to reject in the strongest terms any suggestion that the school’s lawyers had tampered with any documents.
The judge said he was not satisfied to conclude that anything had been tampered with and said any issues relating to discovery could be dealt with in the manner suggested by Mr White and during the course of the hearing.
However, Mr Burke refused to accept this and repeatedly raised the issue and refused to allow the school to open its case.
The judge said that in the old days, he would have been carted off to Mountjoy.
Judge Owens alternated between threatening to hold Mr Burke in contempt and trying to find a resolution to the issue around the disclosure of documents.
He asked lawyers for the school to open their case by talking over Mr Burke, adding that it seemed he was completely ineffective as a judge and Mr Burke was not going to pay notice to him.
He told Mr Burke he needed to stop behaving in the way he was behaving, or he would have to leave, and the case would go on without him.
Mr Connaughton said Mr Burke’s behaviour was contemptuous.
He said Mr Burke did not want to be helped and wanted to bombastically declare his position until he could force the court do what he wanted it to do.
He added that Mr Burke would never allow the case to be run properly and that his conduct was unacceptable and should not be permitted.
The judge asked of Mr Burke "What am I going to do with you?" and said he would "test the patience of Jobe".
When he finally directed Mr Burke should not be allowed into court for the afternoon he told Mr Burke he was the author of his own misfortune.
Before he rose from the bench, he told Mr Burke: "Bye-bye to you."
Mr Burke was suspended from his job as a German and History teacher at the school last August after he publicly confronted the then principal about a request for a new name to be used for a student and for 'they' pronouns to be used.
An injunction was granted by the High Court when Mr Burke continued to turn up at the school despite the suspension.
He was jailed for 108 days before Christmas for defying the injunction.
A daily fine of €700 for contempt of court was imposed on him at the end of January.
The High Court ruled that he was to pay almost €24,000 of that fine by 23 March and that if he did not, the school could take action to enforce the payment.
It is not clear if any payment has yet been made.