Four years, five courts, 29 judges: the endless legal battles of the Burkes of Castlebar

Published date13 May 2023
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
The Castlebar family of unconventional high achievers are known for their strongly held evangelical Christian beliefs and socially conservative views. In recent times, some members of the family have come to prominence for their persistent public protests and legal challenges, and their disruptive courtroom appearances and forcible removals by gardaí

While their legal complaints are the subject of significant public, media and legal interest, with at least one case resulting in a judgment of constitutional significance, the conduct of some members of the family in court - and the amount of court time some have taken up - has raised concerns.

The Burkes are no strangers to litigation. Since 2019, members of the family have been involved in litigation in the District, Circuit and High Courts, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, involving appearances before about 29 judges. Their most significant case was a successful challenge by one of the 10 children in the Burke family, Elijah, who was represented by lawyers, to his exclusion from the 2020 Leaving Cert calculated grades scheme.

That case proceeded smoothly all the way to the Supreme Court. But two of Elijah's siblings, Ammi and Enoch, have had markedly less success to date representing themselves in separate litigation. Their behaviour in court has attracted much criticism.

This week, there was something of an escalation in the Burkes' labyrinthine legal battles when Ammi Burke, a qualified solicitor, made formal complaints to the president of the High Court, the Judicial Council and the Minister for Justice about Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger.

The complaints came after the judge rejected Ms Burke's challenge to the dismissal by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) of her complaint alleging she was unfairly dismissed from law firm Arthur Cox. Another High Court judge, Mr Justice Garrett Simons, had previously rejected another challenge by Ms Burke related to the WRC's handling of her complaint.

The behaviour of Ammi and Enoch Burke raises important issues concerning the courts' management of disruptive litigants-in-person and the appropriate balance to be struck between a citizen's constitutional right of access to the courts, the litigation rights of other parties and the power of the courts to control their administration and processes. It poses questions around whether and when the courts can or should intervene.

Several judges have publicly voiced concerns about the extent to which litigation...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT