The Cork Deaf Club have submitted an application form to City Hall calling for Cork’s new bridge to be called the ISL Bridge, in honour of Irish Sign Language.
The new bridge, to be constructed between Merchants Quay and Harleys Street, will aim to provide improved pedestrian and cycle access, with particular benefits for travel between Kent Station and McCurtain Street on the northern side and along Parnell Place, the city centre and bus station on the south side.
Cork City council have called for submissions from the public on what the bridge should be called.
Names already put forward to name the bridge include guitarist Rory Gallegher Bridge, social activist Mother Jones, boxer Jack McAuliffe, aid worker Mary Elmes and dance teacher Joan Denise Moriarty.
The Irish Sign Language Bill was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins on December 24 last year, recognising ISL as the language of the deaf community here in Ireland.
In his submission to City Hall, Graham O’Shea, chairperson of the Cork Deaf Club (CDC), said “it was the best Christmas present ever for the Irish Deaf community”.
“History has tended to ignore sign languages, which have been often dismissed as merely gestures, or labelled communication tools.
“In fact, sign languages the world over are rich and beautiful languages that can express every concept and every emotion vividly and in ways that spoken languages cannot, such as in three dimensions, and using both time and direction,” he explained.
Cork has a proud and long history associated with the deaf community, explained Mr O’Shea.
One of the first records of sign language in Ireland is of a Cork woman, Lady Mary O’Bryen, travelling to London in 1753 to get married.
Her tutor recalled things being said “by signs, which she answered by signs”.
“The second deaf school in the country was established here in 1822, further downriver from the new bridge,” said Mr O’Shea.
“Cork man Joseph Humphrey’s was the first headmaster of the first Deaf school at Claremont in Dublin.
“Francis Maginn, a celebrated Deaf community leader and co-founder of the British Deaf Association was from Mallow,” he added.
This year the UN established an annual International Day of Sign Languages (September 23), coinciding with International Sign Language Week.
For the past number of years, Cork City Hall has lit up blue to mark the week.
“A permanent monument to sign language would celebrate ISL and sign languages in general, but it would also celebrate the rich cultural and linguistic heritage of Ireland as a whole, which is now trilingual,” said Mr O’Shea.
“The bridge would showcase Cork as a city where equality and inclusion are championed, where we are all Cork, more united by what we have in common, than separated by our differences.
He added that he can think of no more apt a symbol than a bridge to highlight the impact of ISL and its ability to connect people, past, present and future generations.