Enoch Burke and Wilson’s Hospital School-is there a lesson for all of us?

The High Court made an order yesterday for the arrest of a secondary school teacher, Enoch Burke.

Burke has been a secondary school teacher for a number of years in Wilson’s Hospital school in Westmeath.

He disagrees with the school’s policy regarding transgenderism and with the decision of the school to address a pupil with the pronoun ‘they’ at the request of the pupil and the pupil’s parents.

Burke confronted the principal at an event to celebrate a centenary of the school and persisted in pursuing the principal to put questions and his objections to the principal.

Arising from this he was placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation.

Burke has ignored the direction to stay away from the school and has turned up to sit in an empty classroom saying he is there to teach.

The school, motivated by a desire to minimise disruption in the new school year, felt it had no choice but to go to the high Court and seek an order to have Burke arrested and committed for breach of a previous court order to stay away from the school.


Nobody denies Burke’s right to have a different opinion about anything, including transgenderism or religious or moral issues generally.

But any employer, including a school, is entitled to pursue its policies provided they are not unlawful and in accordance with the law.

That is what Wilson’s Hospital is doing in respecting the wishes of the pupil to be referred to as ‘they’.

Burke is not entitled to foist his views on his employer and insist that they will prevail and carry the day. If Burke does not like the school’s policies or ethos, he is free to resign and work in a different school.

But Wilson’s Hospital are entitled to do what they are doing.

Society would break down into anarchy if individuals could insist that their individual views must be implemented in the workplace, or in society generally, regardless of the views of others or the laws placed on the statute books.

Whilst some may recognise Burke’s bravery about pursuing his firmly held views others will wonder if has he thought about the end game. What is he hoping to achieve?

Does he not recognise he cannot thumb his nose at the laws on the statue books and High Court orders?

Has he considered his future as a teacher?

This is a decision for him, and if he wants to put a blow torch to his teaching career and self-immolate upon the pyre of firmly held beliefs he is perfectly entitled to do so.

But it is hard not to wonder if he has thought about the end game, and the result of all this brouhaha and publicity.

Anyone hell bent on pursuing a dispute, conflict, row or legal proceedings should, as a general proposition, understand what they are trying to achieve, the final outcome.

Perhaps there is a lesson for all of us in this Enoch Burke conflict.

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