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Cork Lives
Teacher Adrian Rynne from Clare, centre back row, with one of the sign language classes of Club Ceoil Ballyphehane, at Deerpark CBS.Picture: David Keane.
Teacher Adrian Rynne from Clare, centre back row, with one of the sign language classes of Club Ceoil Ballyphehane, at Deerpark CBS.Picture: David Keane.
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VIDEO: Learning how to sign is something  everyone should do, says grandmother

THERE’S a new word on the street in Ballyphehane these days. Since the successful establishment of Irish Sign Language (ISL) classes under the umbrella of the popular Club Ceoil initiative at Deerpark CBS in September, more than 60 people of all ages have begun to learn it and use it in their daily lives.

Under the tutelage of Adrian Rynne from the Sign Language Association of Ireland, the group have made great strides, with 20 of them recently passing Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI) accredited exams with flying colours.

Among the students is grandmother of one Geraldine McNulty from the Kent Road. An active member of the Club Ceol community, she also participates in weekly set dancing classes and was inspired to learn a new skill due to the nature of her work.

Geraldine McNulty from Ballyphehane, attending one of the sign language classes of Club Ceoil Ballyphehane, at Deerpark CBS.Picture: David Keane.
Geraldine McNulty from Ballyphehane, attending one of the sign language classes of Club Ceoil Ballyphehane, at Deerpark CBS.
Picture: David Keane.

“I work in Dunnes in Douglas Court and there are a few customers who come in who are hearing impaired,” she said.

“I thought it would be nice, rather than just smiling at them, to be able to say hello and thank you, just a few words.

“I met one lady out in the centre and I told her that I was doing the course, I had to write it down because I didn’t know how to sign it at the time.

“I met her again the other day and told her that we did our exams and that we passed. She was delighted with that.”

Geraldine knows more than a few words now, in fact, she passed her exam with distinction, and is now working towards her level 2 qualification.

“I couldn’t have a full blown conversation with anyone at the moment but I can ask them how they are, where they’re from, about the weather and hobbies,” she explains.

“A girl I work with does one of the classes too so we practice at work between one another. “I might ask her how she is, and she says she’s good. Simple things like that.”

Chloe O'Herlihy, Rochestown and Betty Browne, Wilton, attending the sign language classes at Deerpark CBS.Picture: David Keane.
Chloe O'Herlihy, Rochestown and Betty Browne, Wilton, attending the sign language classes at Deerpark CBS.
Picture: David Keane.

Geraldine says learning ISL is something everyone can consider.

“It was harder than I thought it would be but it’s very enjoyable so I’ll stick with it. I’ve met loads of new people, new friends. I’m going to do my level 2 and see where I go from there.”

Best friends Chloe O’Herlihy and Laura Burke have also been enjoying the classes.

“I work in a school as a Special Needs Assistant, and even though we have no children currently enrolled who have hearing impairment, I thought I would do it just in case someone does come in,” Laura explains. “It’s good to be able to communicate a few words and make them feel welcome.”

Chloe, who works in beauty salon City Wax, initially joined the class because of Laura, but is delighted to have learned a valuable new skill.

“I work with people all the time and it’s nice to know that if someone ever came in and they needed someone to communicate with them that I could do that for them.

“Two guys with hearing impairments actually came to the salon recently. I wasn’t doing the course long at the time but was able to converse with them a little bit.

Classmates Vivienne Coleman, Greenmount and Catherine O'Riordan, Pouladuff Road.
Classmates Vivienne Coleman, Greenmount and Catherine O'Riordan, Pouladuff Road.

“One asked me how long I was doing the course, I think it was five weeks so he joked that I needed a bit more practice!

“I think they appreciated that I was trying to make an effort to make them feel more comfortable though, so it was nice.”

Deirdre Dorney and her daughter Roisin, from Blackrock, are two of a number of mother/daughter duos participating in the course.

“I actually read about the course in the Evening Echo”, Deirdre says.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, learn sign language. I’ve tried before a number of times and usually there weren’t enough people to make a class so I asked my daughter to come along with me.

“We signed up and really enjoy it so far. I actually love it, even if Roisin’s a bit better than me at it!”

“It’s really nice to learn ISL because there are a couple of people in my school, Ashton, who have hearing impairment,” Roisin says.

“The teachers are asking people if they know sign language to come forward and chat with them so it’s really nice to be able to say I can help out.”

Irish Sign Language, which is used by 5,000 people in the deaf community, was only recently recognised as an official language of the State with the passing of the Recognition of Irish Sign Language Act late last year. The historic act, long fought for by campaign groups, provides Irish Sign Language users with legal rights to access Government Departments and other public bodies through ISL. Other provision in the act include the right of ISL users to access all courts through their language, and educational support for deaf children.

Deirdre and Roisin Dorney from Blackrock, attending one of the sign language classes of Club Ceoil Ballyphehane, at Deerpark CBS.Picture: David Keane.
Deirdre and Roisin Dorney from Blackrock, attending one of the sign language classes of Club Ceoil Ballyphehane, at Deerpark CBS.
Picture: David Keane.

Mikaela Lynch, a transition year student at St Aloysius College, Carrigtwohill, is delighted to have the chance to use ISL inside and outside of school.

“Adrian came into my school in September and he did sign language with us until December so that is how I got interested in it,” she explains.

“60 of us out of 117 got to do it for the couple of months. I really wanted to keep it up, so asked him where could I do a course outside of school and he gave me these details.”

Mikaela believes that ISL should be taught in schools as a 

Leaving Cert subject, like other official languages.

“I like it because it’s completely different to being able to speak any other language. It’s not like your French or German or Spanish. I am learning German in school but I don’t think I’ll ever use that outside of school. This I will. If I see a deaf person in a shop, train station, bus station, I’ll be able to communicate with them.”

Mikaela says she hopes to be a sign language teacher one day, arguing that ISL is not only a language skill, it’s a life skill too.

“Sign language isn’t just there for people with hearing difficulties, it’s also useful for autistic kids, girls or boys with speech difficulties, kids with Down Syndrome, anything. In that way, knowing ISL give you the ability to communicate with many kinds of people.”

Lorraine Cummins, an SNA at Greenmount National School, agrees that communication is important.

“I work with kids who have hearing impairments, Down Syndrome and autism. If they are non- verbal it can be very stressful for them, trying to communicate their feelings, especially if they are sick. Using ISL bridges a gap.”

Lorraine believes that it should be taught across the board.

“It’s a recognised language now so it should be taught in schools.

“We recognise every other language from no matter what part of the world. ISL users are living in our own country so we should recognise that it is a language that they are speaking, and make an effort to learn it.

“It’s showing respect to the deaf community, and saying that they are important.”

Current classes are full, but new ISL evening courses will commence at Deerpark CBS in September.

To keep up to date, see https://clubceoilballyphehane.com/.