Irish Sign Language set to be officially recognised in historic day for deaf people

Irish Sign Language set to be officially recognised in historic day for deaf people

Graham O'Shea, Secretary of the Cork Deaf Club; Alice Walsh , vice chairperson; Mary O'Connor, treasurer and Gerard O'Riordan, committee member pictured with last year's County Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Paul O'Shea during their campaign for Irish Sign Language recognition. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE Cork Deaf community said they expect the Irish Sign Language Recognition Act to be passed into legislation tomorrow in a major step forward for deaf people in Ireland.

"It will be a historic day for the Irish Deaf community here and abroad. Finally, Deaf people feel that they are recognised as full citizens of Ireland," the Cork Deaf Club said.

The Act enshrines the right of Deaf people to access public and private services, as well as information, in their own language, Irish Sign Language (ISL).

ISL is used by 5,000 Deaf people as well as another approximately 40,000 people who are family, friends and colleagues of members of the Deaf community.

It will make a huge difference to the everyday life of ISL users, in particular when accessing critical services, such as healthcare, the legal system and education.

It is hoped that an interpreting voucher system will be established soon to facilitate access through ISL to private services.

The law is the culmination of a long campaign, led by the Irish Deaf Society (IDS), to have ISL awarded official status as a language of the state.

The recognition campaign gained momentum in recent years with every county and city council in the country approving motions that called on the government to recognise ISL.

However, it began in the 1980s when MEP Eileen LeMass proposed a resolution that all the sign languages of Europe be recognised in their home countries.

Since then many EU and non-EU countries, for example, Denmark, Malta, Papua New Guinea and Brazil, have granted legal recognition to their national sign languages.

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