One of teacher Enoch Burke's brothers was trying to "conduct" the other members of the family so they would all chant together to disrupt a disciplinary hearing held by the school where Mr Burke worked, the High Court has been told.

Freda Malone, who was the acting chairperson of the Board of Management of Wilson’s Hospital School, was the final witness in the action being taken by the school against Mr Burke.

She said the secondary school decided to dismiss Mr Burke in January because of "serious misconduct".

His appeal against his dismissal is still pending.

The school wants the court to find that it was correct to suspend Mr Burke from his teaching position in August 2022 pending the outcome of a disciplinary process against him.

He alleges the disciplinary process, his suspension and the subsequent decision to dismiss him were unlawful.

Mr Burke has not attended the last two days of the court case after he refused to accept a ruling of the court and repeatedly disrupted proceedings.

Mr Justice Alex Owens told him he could not come back into court until he was willing to accept the rulings.

It is not clear if Mr Burke is watching the proceedings using an online link.

Mr Justice Owens has begun each session of the case with an address to Mr Burke "if he is listening".

He has told him he is more than welcome to participate if he is prepared to accept the rulings of the court.

There has been no response from Mr Burke online and he has not responded to emails sent by lawyers for the school.

Wilson's Hospital School in Co Westmeath dismissed Mr Burke
from his teaching position (Image:

This afternoon, Ms Malone was asked about the disciplinary meeting held in the Mullingar Park Hotel in January this year. She said the chairperson of the Board of Management, John Rogers, was ill and she was the acting chairperson.

When she attempted to start the meeting, she said the Burkes started shouting. She said they objected to the presence of two solicitors for the school and then to the presence of a stenographer.

The solicitors and the stenographer left the meeting, and Ms Malone said the Burkes huddled together and then started objecting to the fact that John Rogers was not there. Ms Malone said the former principal of the school, Niamh McShane, began reading out her report to the members of the Board of Management.

She said the Burkes were chanting "Where is John Rogers", "There is no chair of the meeting", "Who is this woman", "No one wants to hear this woman speak". What they were shouting was "absurd", she told the court.

Ms Malone said Isaac, one of Mr Burke’s brothers, was trying to "conduct" the family so they would chant together. Asked by Mr Justice Owens who Isaac was, she replied "the one that carries the box".

Ms Malone said Mr Burke was listening to Ms McShane because on a number of occasions he said "no" to what she was saying. But she said if Mr Burke felt he could not hear, it was because his own family were screaming so loudly. She said he was invited twice to ask questions and to address the board and to give a closing statement but he did not respond and continued chanting "Where is John Rogers".

By the end, she said, all four members of the Burke family - Enoch, Isaac, their sister, Ammi and mother, Martina were standing so close to the board members that Ammi’s hair whipped her in the face.

She said the board members went to a different room to make their decision. They agreed that the behaviour outlined by Ms McShane was a clear example of intimidation and harassment of a colleague. And that Mr Burke’s decision to raise a pupil’s request for a new name and gender neutral pronouns at a public event was a serious breach of confidentiality which raised health and safety concerns for students.

Ms Malone described to the court her interactions with Mr Burke after Ms McShane sent an email to all staff in May last year, asking them to address the student by a new name and use they/them pronouns.

She said at a staff meeting a few days afterwards, Enoch had interrupted and said he could not sit there and listen after the "demand" that had been made to staff. She said he described it as "child endangerment" and that it went against the ethos of the school. Ms Malone said Mr Burke’s face got very, very red.

She said she was later asked to take over the supervision of the year group of which the child was a member from Mr Burke so that he would not be present when the year head went in to talk to them about the child’s request. She said he remained outside the classroom writing things down while looking in the window and she later had a tense conversation with him during which she said he was visibly upset and had "tears in his eyes".

Ms Malone also described the dinner at the dining hall in June last year where Mr Burke spoke to then principal, Ms McShane. Ms Malone said Enoch was hovering next to Ms McShane and standing very, very close to her. He was demanding she took back her demand and he was leaning over and "talking on her". Another colleague had to lead Ms McShane away, she said and she saw a parent step in to stop him from following her. Ms Malone said Mr Burke was saying "you are stopping my progress". She said she asked him why he was behaving in this way and why he had accosted Ms McShane. She told the court that he said he had not accosted anyone and that Ms Malone had better careful what she said to him.

Ms Malone said a parent stood in the doorway as Ms McShane left to go to her house and when she herself was leaving she saw a ring of guests standing around Ms McShane’s house. She described it as a pretty upsetting evening.

Enoch Burke (Pic:

Earlier, the school’s deputy principal, John Galligan, said Mr Burke had "erupted" at the staff meeting after Ms McShane sent the email in relation to the student.

Mr Galligan told the court that Ms McShane asked Mr Burke to stop saying the staff meeting was not the place to discuss the matter, but that Mr Burke "went on about transgenderism" for about five to eight minutes before he eventually stopped talking.

Mr Galligan said he was at a board meeting on 15 August 2022 when a report prepared by Ms McShane as part of a disciplinary process was read. He said the content of the report was not discussed and a meeting was arranged for the following week to decide if Mr Burke should be put on paid administrative leave.

Mr Burke attended the meeting on 22 August with his sister, Ammi. Mr Galligan said the purpose of the meeting was to allow Mr Burke to give reasons why he should not be suspended. But he said Mr Burke did not engage with the board on that issue. Mr Burke has claimed he did not get a chance to complete his submissions, that the meeting was conducted in a haphazard manner, that the chairperson had ordered him to take the administrative leave, and that the meeting ended with the chairperson walking out.

However, Mr Galligan said Mr Burke was given plenty of chances to put his case forward and he said the meeting ended because the Burkes were going on and on and it was getting nowhere.

He said the board decided to suspend Mr Burke because there was a health and safety concern about what would happen when the school resumed after the summer holidays. He said there was concern about his previous outbursts and that children could witness interruption and protest in the school.

Despite the suspension, Mr Galligan gave evidence that Mr Burke continued to attend at the school premises.

Evidence in the case has now concluded and Senior Counsel Alex White said lawyers for the school would make their closing statement to the court tomorrow.