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Date set for Burke defamation case against newspaper

Jailed teacher Enoch Burke’s High Court defamation action over a newspaper report when he was in prison for contempt for the first time in 2022 is to be heard next week.

Mr Burke is currently detained in Mountjoy Prison for his refusal to comply with court orders not to attend the Wilson’s Hospital School in Westmeath which has dismissed him over what he says was standing up for his religious beliefs over transgenderism.

His appeal against his dismissal remains pending.

Today, he appeared before Mr Justice David Nolan by video link from prison when a date was set for his defamation action against Mediahuis Ireland, publishers of the Sunday Independent.

The claims are denied. The publisher denies defamation and pleads fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest.

The newspaper ran a story on him on 9 October 2022 during his first period in jail for contempt and before he was released with €700 daily fines imposed on him instead of imprisonment.

When he returned to the school he was jailed for a second time for contempt last September.

The case will be heard by a judge sitting alone rather than before a judge and jury.

In a pretrial application before Mr Justice Nolan Mr Burke raised his objections to certain material, including matters referred to by the defendants in their legal submissions, being considered by the judge hearing the action.

Mr Burke claimed that this material, which he argued amounted to evidence, was prejudicial to his case.

His application was opposed by the defendants represented by Ronan Lupton SC, for Mediahuis.

Ruling on the matter the judge said he was satisfied that some of the material referred to by Mr Burke should not go before the court until the day of the hearing, and should not be lodged with the court in advance of the trial.

Those matters can then be considered by the judge on the day of the hearing.

Mr Justice Nolan said he was satisfied that as the matter was not before a jury, any judge considering the case would be fully aware that legal submissions cannot be considered as evidence in the case.

Mr Burke expressed his unhappiness with the court’s finding regarding submissions.

In reply, Mr Justice Nolan told Mr Burke was free to renew his application before the judge hearing the case.

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