School locked gates for “security purposes” and asked parents to delay collecting students
Teacher Enoch Burke returned to Wilson’s Hospital School today after being earlier released without charge, following his arrest for alleged trespass this morning.
He was initially unable to regain entry to the school this afternoon as the gates were locked. But he then entered the property when the gates were opened to allow a bus in.
When Burke reached the school he was confronted by Principal Frank Milling, who said: "Stop. Stop. Get off the property". However, Mr Burke remained where he was and it is understood that gardaí were again called.
As the school closed and pupils and staff left, Mr Burke was collected by his father and driven away.
Mr Burke had turned up at the school this morning shortly after 8.30am, days after he was dismissed following chaotic scenes at a disciplinary meeting, arriving in an SUV driven by his father.
Gardaí were called to the school with two uniformed gardaí arriving in an unmarked car around 11.15am. They were met at the school door by Principal Frank Milling.
Mr Burke was then arrested in the school courtyard after being denied entry to the building.
At around 12.30pm he was taken in the back of the garda vehicle and brought to Mullingar Garda Station.
But he emerged from the garda station shortly before 2pm and immediately returned to the school near Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.
A garda statement said: “A male was arrested under the Public Order Act 1994 and taken to Mullingar Garda Station.
“He has subsequently been released pending the submission of a file to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
On his return to the school, Mr Burke was unable to gain entry as the front gates were locked.
A message sent to parents informed them that the gates were locked “for security purposes”.
It said the situation was “controlled” and advised them to delay collection of their child until a later time than usual.
However, when the gates opened to allow a vehicle in, Mr Burke followed and walked up the driveway.
Speaking to reporters at the gates, Mr Burke claimed he had been “wrongfully arrested” for trespass.
"I have broken no laws. I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
He said gardaí had spent 45 minutes in the principal’s office and then came down to arrest him.
"A decision already made without even observing the situation. That is something that is really, really wrong and regrettable that that would happen and absolutely disgraceful. I have said as much to the gardaí,” he said.
“Therefore, I am back here and we have this situation now.”
Mr Burke was dismissed from his post at Wilson’s Hospital School late last week.
A statement on Friday on his behalf to the Irish Independent confirmed his employment had been terminated.
The move came a day after a disciplinary meeting attended by the teacher and members of his family descended into chaos.
Gardaí were called to the meeting, held by the school’s board of management, after Mr Burke, his mother Martina, sister Ammi and brother Isaac loudly objected to the presence of two lawyers and the absence of the board’s chairman.
The statement said Mr Burke had attended Wilson’s Hospital School on Friday.
“He was informed in person at 3:30pm this afternoon in the presence of chairperson of the board of management John Rogers and principal Frank Milling that he was dismissed,” the statement read.
The brief statement again highlighted Mr Burke’s objection to the presence of the lawyers and Mr Roger’s absence from the disciplinary meeting.
Mr Burke, an evangelical Christian, was suspended last August following incidents in which he clashed with school management over a request to call a transgender pupil by a new name and to use “they/their” pronouns in connection with the child.
He said that to do so would violate his religious beliefs.
Despite being suspended, he continued to show up for work, even after the school secured High Court orders restraining him from doing so.
This led to him being jailed for 108 days for contempt of court.
Despite refusing to purge his contempt he was eventually released from Mountjoy just before Christmas and was warned by a judge he could find himself back behind bars or have his assets sequestered if he breached orders again.
However, he resumed showing up at the school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath on January 5. While in the school he was confined to a corridor and kept away from students.
Although Thursday’s meeting was held in private, the Burkes could be heard from the hallway outside the conference room at the Mullingar Park Hotel shouting and repeatedly chanting: “Chairperson John Rogers must be present at this meeting”, “Where is the chairperson?” and “It’s a sham. It’s a cover up.”
Mr Rogers had been unable to attend due to a medical issue.
When the meeting ended, two gardaí were present to escort some of those present out of the hotel.
However, the Burkes proceeded to follow Mr Milling and others out of a restaurant exit, pursuing them along the driveway in front of the hotel and then back into the hotel’s lobby, loudly berating them throughout.
The school did not comment on the outcome of the meeting.
While Mr Burke has now been dismissed, it is far from the end of the matter.
The High Court is set to rule next week on an application for the sequestration of his assets for ongoing contempt.
A legal action taken by the school against Mr Burke is due to be heard in the coming months, as is a counterclaim in which he alleges his suspension was flawed and unlawful.
The Court of Appeal is also due to hear Mr Burke’s appeal against various High Court orders next month.