IDS calls on Government for legal recognition of Irish Sign Language

3rd October 2013

Senator Martin Conway tables a motion calling on the Government to recognise Irish Sign Language.

The Irish Deaf Society (IDS) is putting pressure on the Government in the continuing pursuit of the legal recognition of Irish Sign Language (ISL). It comes a fortnight after a highly public protest over the issue outside the Dáil that marked International Week of the Deaf.

The motion on Irish Sign Language is being brought before the Seanad tomorrow by Senator Conway which has also been signed by 17 other senators. This motion seeks to implement guidelines on policy for public recognition of ISL. The motion comes after 30 years of campaigning for equality by the Deaf community and the IDS, with momentum having picked up in the last year with 18 Local Authorities voting unanimously in support of the recognition of ISL as a matter of urgency.

Speaking on the issue IDS CEO Peter Regan said: “It is a matter of principle that this motion is passed. The Irish government signed the UN Human Rights Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, which contains duties towards native sign languages. In addition, an EU Parliamentary resolution from 1988 presented by Irish MEP Eileen Lemass has since been ignored by consecutive Irish Governments, and the more recent Brussels Declaration on Sign Language in the European Union of 2010 urges member states to actively support the use of sign languages.”

Without legal protections Deaf people face uncertain and limited access to society. From access to education and healthcare, to interpreting standards and television programming, legal recognition will go a long way towards removing barriers that exclude Deaf people on a day-to-day basis. Irish Sign Language has become a keystone for achieving Equality for Deaf people, without which places Deaf people at social, economic, and cultural disadvantage.

Mr Regan added: “This outcome of the debate on this motion will outline clearly where the Government stands on this equality issue. So far, the Government has only paid lip-service towards the EU and UN; this is a moment of action, and an opportunity for the government to demonstrate its sincerity on a long-standing issue.”

The Irish Deaf Society will hold a protest outside Seanad Éireann on Wednesday, October 9th from 4pm to 7pm while the motion on Irish Sign Language Recognition is debated.

Irish Deaf Society