Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada hosted a delegation of Irish Sign Language (ISL) users in the European Parliament in Brussels this week to coincide with a major international conference on language rights for sign language users.
Liadh Ní Riada said:
“I am delighted to host a delegation of Irish Sign Language users from Ireland in Brussels. I have long advocated equality, respect and recognition for ISL and for the vibrant language community that use it.
“This conference of sign language users from across Europe and beyond has been a revelation. Its clear that people who use sign languages can encounter specific disabilities in terms of accessing education, healthcare and work.
“I have campaigned for Ireland to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and successive Irish Governments should be ashamed for their failure to do so over the years. Enshrining and enumerating these rights is crucially important if we want to cherish all our people equally.
“However we need to widen the debate. We must look beyond the rights of people with disabilities and look at how language rights can help ISL users overcome the challenges and obstacles they can face in their daily lives.
“ISL users form a vibrant, diverse and distinct language community, with its own culture and trajectory. It includes Deaf and Hearing people, young and old, men and women. This community is entitled to equality, respect and recognition, and I intend to work with ISL users to secure these.
“I have been campaigning at a European level for strengthened rights and protections for uses of indigenous, minority and regional languages including my own first language, Gaeilge, and ISL.
“The ISL community made clear their demands in the European Parliament and in the Oireachtas yesterday, and the onus is on all elected representatives to work together to deliver on these.