Editorial: Enoch Burke needs to cop on

The media frenzy surrounding Burke needs to stop

Enoch Burke has, for all the wrong reasons, become a household name over the course of the last few months. There is scarcely a person on the island of Ireland who does not know who he is, or why he is consistently in the news. What is more concerning, however, is how the story has been framed by Irish media outlets. The problem seems to be framed, as it is even outlined on the Burke family wikipedia page, as a “student pronoun debate”. This is far from the issue at hand: why are we excusing a man in his 30s simply hanging outside a school all day long?

The whole media frenzy started back in September of last year, when Burke allegedly breached an injunction which said he could not be in or on the grounds of Wilson’s Hospital School. Burke was suspended from his teaching position at the school in June of 2022, which led to the school being granted a high interim injunction which prevented him from being on school grounds or teaching throughout his suspension. According to many press outlets following the story throughout the beginning in September of last year, Burke was suspended in a row with staff relating to a student’s pronouns. However, this is not exactly the case; Wilson’s Hospital School suspended Burke for disciplinary reasons following an altercation with the school’s principal.  Allegedly, Burke was suspended following a verbal altercation between himself and the principal of Wilson Hospital School, in which Burke allegedly continued to follow the principal after she said she would discuss the issue with him at a later date. He continued to press her on the subject, which resulted in other staff members present having to intervene. Due to his alleged behaviour, Burke was suspended from the school, not due to the fact that he refused to respect a student’s pronouns. 

On September 1, it was reported that Burkle had allegedly breached the injunction to stay off school premises, and a further court order had been brought forward by the school, which could lead to Burke being jailed for contempt of court, unless he agreed to abide by the terms of the interim injunction. Burke failed to appear in the High Court as required, and an arrest order was granted by the High Court judge. On September 5, Burke was arrested after showing up on the school’s premises. He refused to purge his contempt of court on September 7, and was remanded to Mountjoy Prison for a further week. He allegedly said at the time that he would rather stay in prison “every hour of every day for the next 100 years” than comply. This is ridiculous for many reasons, but mostly because it is so very easy, as a man in your 30s, to stay away from a school. Burke also, allegedly, made claims that the school’s request was against his religion; I don’t believe Jesus, at any point, said you should not follow a mandated court order to stay away from a children’s school. Perhaps I skipped that section of the Bible. 

Alas, it was not the only time Burke would refuse to stay away from the school; after a brigade of court hearings and appeals, Burke still refusing to purge his contempt of court, Burke was released from Mountjoy Prison on December 21, and was informed that he would remain at liberty unless he breached existing court order; which, of course, he did. On January 5 and January 6, Burke reappeared outside the school gates. While Gardaí were made aware of the situation, they said it pertained to a civil order, and they had no role at the time. 

On January 19, a full disciplinary meeting by Wilson’s Hospital School was held in relation to Burke’s employment status at the school; the meeting was due to the fact he allegedly cornered the principal about respecting a student’s pronouns, not in a disagreement over student’s pronouns. Following the disciplinary meeting, Burke was formally dismissed from his role as a teacher at the school. Despite this, however, Burke still thought it appropriate on January 24 to enter the school’s premises anyway, and he was arrested under the Public Order Act. He returned later that day, after being released by Gardaí. He returned the next day. And the next. At the time of writing, Burke was still appearing at the school gates.

Something that seems so obvious, yet is seemingly excluded from the narrative surrounding Enoch Burke in recent months, is that he is a man in his 30s, who was homeschooled, continuously returning to school premises, where there are minors. A man, in his 30s, hanging around a school, is fundamentally strange. Yes, he used to be employed there. It’s still fucking weird. There is no good reason for an adult who does not work there, or who does not have children studying there, to be at a secondary school. Beyond being quite strange behaviour, it is also impacting the children’s right to study in a safe environment; with Burke continuously returning, and a media frenzy ensuing, it is not a safe or fair environment for school grounds. It is actively putting students at risk, for no other reason than Burke’s own hubris, as he believes his religion gives him cause. 

We will not repeat, as a reputable publication, any of the vile, transphobic things Burke has reiterated in recent times in relation to his “cause” for disrespecting a student’s pronouns; we, as a publication, don’t even believe that to be the issue at hand. He, allegedly, harassed the school principal about it. What we will say, however, is that the Bible, which is presumably the source Burke is working off of as an evangelical Christian, does not say anything about trans identity. If you are using religion as your source for bigotry, and hurting a minor by disrespecting their request, at least get it fucking right. We, as a publication, checked. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in relation to trans identity in the Bible. So, Enoch Burke is, firstly, full of shit. 

Secondly, the media’s obsession with this man has gotten beyond laughable at this point; why, pray tell, are there hoards of paparazzi outside Wilson’s Hospital School each day, in the hopes he will appear? Maybe we’re wrong, but Enoch Burke is no Princess Diana. He is returning to the school continuously, dropped and collected by his father, due to the fact the media are there waiting for him. It’s becoming a frenzy; this man, and his views, do not deserve our time or attention. More than that, this is impacting the lives and education of every child in that school, which is a point that is continuously neglected in any reporting related to this. Yes, there is one student at the centre of this, and that is horrific in and of itself; the continuance of this circus is affecting every student in that school, and the media are partly responsible. 

Thirdly, Burke simply needs to move on. He has been sacked. Build a bridge. This is getting beyond ridiculous; you’ve been asked to stay away from a school, where there are minors, and if that doesn’t set off alarm bells that maybe you shouldn’t keep going to said school, there is seriously something wrong. 

It is the opinion of this paper, quite simply, that Enoch Burke needs to just cop on; and fuck off. If you can’t respect one student’s identity, you shouldn’t be a teacher, but that’s not even the issue. That was not why there was a disciplinary meeting. Burke, clearly, is not suited for the education of minors. Cut your losses. And maybe RTÉ should stop camping outside a kids school; it’s weird.