Press Statement re: Lack of Policy in the Irish Penal Service for Deaf people

25th February 2015

Press Statement
Re: Imprisonment of Deaf man Edward Connors and the lack of services for Deaf people in the Irish Prison System (24th February 2015)

The Irish Deaf Society would like to offer concerns towards the sentencing of Edward Connors on Monday 23rd February 2015. Whilst the Irish Deaf Society offers every sympathy to all affected by the tragic and fatal incident leading towards the death of Mr. Eoghan Dudley, we wish to bring to light our concerns about Mr. Edward Connors as a Deaf person in the Irish Penal Service which currently has no designated policy for the rehabilitation and education of Deaf people.

It is accepted that 80% of Deaf adults who use Irish Sign Language use English as a second language however, many of them do not have sufficient proficiency in using it as a language to read or write. Mr Connor’s first language is Irish Sign Language and this has only been provided to him on a professional level.

We would ask that you imagine yourself as a Deaf person, devoid of sound in a locked cell with no ability to hear a radio, to not be able to understand subtitles on your television, to not be able to communicate effectively with staff and fellow prisoners who are unable to sign. The Irish Deaf Society considers this to be an astounding effect on a Deaf person’s mental health and well-being and urge that policy is put into place as soon as possible to combat the isolation and fear of any Deaf person in the Irish penal system.

In the 2011 census, it was stated that 87 prisoners had some form of deafness (We appreciate that this does not indicate whether these 87 people used Irish Sign Language as their first language) but highlights that Deaf people have been through the penal system and will most likely continue to do so as seen with Mr. Edward Connors.

The Irish Deaf Society were contacted in late 2014 about Mr. Connors plight regarding a lack of education at Cloverhill Prison. On visiting Mr. Connors, it was realised that he has received no form of adult education despite facilities available at the prison. Every prisoner in Ireland is entitled to and encourage to participate in educational opportunities where feasible but this has not been the case for Mr. Connors.

The Irish Deaf Society appreciates the efforts made by Cloverhill prison to date with a willingness to provide Irish Sign Language classes to its staff and moves towards education for Deaf people (although not yet in place). Mr. Connors has been incarcerated since December 2012 with no proper access. We would urge that a policy is put in place as soon as possible to ensure that Deaf (and hard of hearing) people get fair and equal treatment like other people going through the penal system. Judge Pat McCartan this week stated that “Society is continuing to fail Mr. Connors by not providing adequate prisoner services with rehabilitation and education”.

The Irish Deaf Society would like to highlight that suggestions for a new rehabilitation service for Deaf people in Ireland being put in place in 2016 is prolonging what is essentially a service that is needed urgently and would ask that systems are put in place in a matter of weeks as opposed to years.

End of Statement

For more information: Contact the Irish Deaf Society at (01) 8601878 or email info@www.irishdeafsociety.ie.