TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has spoken of his hope that profoundly deaf Cork teenager Calum Geary will soon have a fully qualified classroom Irish Sign Language interpreter.
The Irish Sign Language (ISL) Act was signed into law four years ago, on December 14, 2017, making ISL an official language of Ireland, alongside Irish and English.
Calum Geary, from Ballyhooly in Cork, was born without an auditory nerve, meaning he is profoundly deaf, beyond medical or mechanical intervention, and he will never speak. Calum’s native language is ISL, and his family has long argued that Calum, who turned 13 last month, needs an ISL interpreter in his classroom so he can fully understand the lessons his hearing classmates take for granted.
Without fully fluent ISL interpreters in the classroom, Calum’s parents say, he and every other profoundly deaf schoolchild in the country cannot access fully the education, which is their right as Irish citizens.
An unpublished report, commissioned by Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte earlier this year, and seen by The Echo, found that fewer than 100 children in the State have the same level of deafness as Calum Geary.
In that report, the National Disability Authority also found that the Department of Education had not met its obligations under the ISL Act to provide ISL support for schoolchildren whose primary language is ISL.
Two weeks ago, in the Seanad, Ms Rabbitte accepted that the Department of Education is not in compliance with its obligations to deaf schoolchildren.
Speaking to The Echo, the Taoiseach said he was very concerned about the situation, and he was hopeful that a solution was close to hand.
“I’ve been talking to Deputy Pádraig O’Sullivan, in particular, who has been advocating on behalf of Calum and the family, and my understanding is that it is close to resolution, and I would hope that that would be the case,” said Mr Martin.
Last week, Calum’s father Andrew, a Garda sergeant and a teacher in the Garda College in Templemore, spoke with Patricia Messinger on C103fm.
He said that it would be the best Christmas present ever for Calum if the Department of Education were to announce that classroom ISL interpreters were to be granted to deaf schoolchildren.
He noted that it was 25 years since broadcaster Vincent Browne highlighted the lack of educational supports for deaf children, and that little has changed in the intervening years.