A CORK man is aiming to become the first elected deaf councillor to represent the city.
Graham O’Shea is running as a non-party candidate in the Cork City South Central electoral area.
Graham is from Cork, but at the age of seven, he went to St. Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Dublin for his primary and secondary schooling.
Subsequently, he attended Bristol University, becoming one of the first Deaf Irish Sign Language users in the country to get a degree in Deaf Studies and completed a Masters in History at UCC in 2011.
Graham has worked as a freelance Irish Sign Language teacher and Deaf Awareness Trainer for the last 17 years.
“Deaf people and people with a disability are not adequately represented in public life here,” Graham told The Echo.
“At present not only are there no deaf councillors in Cork, but there are none in Ireland. It is time for deaf people with Irish Sign Language (ISL) as a first language to face down the barriers and put ourselves forward for public office.”
For the first time in the history of the State, this year two deaf ISL users are running in the local elections: Graham and Micheál Kelliher (Independents4Change) in Dublin.
Graham has volunteered in the deaf community for many years, as a board member of the Irish Deaf Society and through his involvement with Cork Deaf Club.
He was a key member of the nationwide campaign in recent years for legislation officially recognising Irish Sign Language.
“As a deaf person,” Graham says, “I experience barriers and discrimination on a daily basis.
“Whether it’s accessing employment, entertainment, education or your own information held by private companies, services find excuses to treat deaf people differently,” he said.
“The effects of this are felt throughout the deaf community, which has a higher incidence of mental health difficulties.”
Graham said he is not just cam[paigning on issues impacting the deaf community.
He said traffic remains a significant problem in Cork and said he supports the return of a tram system to Cork.
“Every time I travel through Cork’s rush-hour traffic, it makes me think about the European cities I have visited that have an integrated transport system.”
“The road infrastructure here is not great and yet the number of cars is increasing, leading to more and more traffic problems. It’s not even unusual for traffic to be at a standstill.”