Teacher Enoch Burke, Mountjoy prison, conscience, and the majesty of the law

Photograph: Collins Courts, Irish Times

A secondary school teacher in Wilson’s Hospital, Co. Westmeath, was jailed yesterday by the High Court. He is in Mountjoy prison as I write this and will be released if and when he purges his contempt of court, or the High Court makes some further order.

The case is due back before the High Court on Wednesday (tomorrow).

There are plenty of individuals who see this as a case about free speech, a right to hold contrary views, religious beliefs, a growing liberalism in Irish society, the departure from traditional values, etc. etc.

Take your pick.

Head over to Twitter and see for yourself.

Those of us who deal in facts know that this is not the case, of course.

It is about contempt of court and the willful breach of a court order made by the High Court on 30th august 2022.

This order was to last from 30th August until 7th September, or until another order was made, from attending Wilson’s Hospital school.

Mr Burke attended school. Mr Burke was in breach of the court order. Mr Burke was brought back before the High Court yesterday and given the opportunity to give an undertaking not to continue in breach.

He was unwilling to do so. Thus, the trip to Mountjoy prison.

This is about the rule of law and court orders being complied with. Nothing else. None of the issues which have exercised Mr Burke in his workplace were of any interest to the Judge yesterday.

The place for those views is the disciplinary process in the workplace, according to the Judge.

There is a disciplinary hearing scheduled for 14th September next and he will be given the opportunity to put his version of events, his views, and so forth. This is how fair procedures and natural justice works in a disciplinary process in the workplace.

But ignoring a court order of the High Court? Then you may end up in Mountjoy. That’s all that has happened here.

The majesty of the law.

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