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Historic day for Deaf Community as Irish Sign Language officially recognised – Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

14 December, 2017 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Speaking during all stages of the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016 which presented before the Dáil today, Sinn Féin TD and Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin T.D said that this was an historic day for the Deaf Community in Ireland.

Deputy Ó Caolain said;

“Sinn Féin have long supported the campaign by the Irish Deaf Society and campaigners for official recognition of ISL as we have always recognised the importance of Irish Sign Language (ISL) to the Irish Deaf Community, their families and friends. 

"We have been fully committed to supporting the passage of ISL recognition legislation as it is an incredibly important piece of legislation for the rights and entitlements of citizens who are deaf. 

“Irish Sign Language, ISL, is a language of the face, hands and body that has been in existence for hundreds of years and developed from within the Deaf Community in Ireland. 

"It is one of our two indigenous languages, the other, Gaeilge, being our first official language. It differs from sign languages in other countries. It is unique to Ireland.

"There are approximately 5,000 Deaf people in Ireland who use ISL. However, approximately 40,000 hearing people use ISL, ranging from a regular to occasional usage in Ireland.

“Last October, in my capacity as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, I was honoured to launch a report fully endorsing the need for the formal recognition of ISL.

“During the course of the hearings on this issue we heard of the extent to which the Deaf Community experiences exclusion and isolation through the lack of sign language provision.

"One witness described that experience as one of “extreme marginalisation”, and this extends from the personal level right through to interactions with key organs of State such as the education system, the Court Service, the Health Service and including this Parliament, Dáil and Seanad Éireann.

“The passing of this Bill would mean that deaf people in Ireland would finally be able to access state services in their own language.

"It will mean every public body having to devise and implement an action plan to promote the use of sign language within the organisation. It would also permit the use of sign language within the courts.

"It would advocate for the establishment of an Irish Sign Language Council which would regulate sign language interpreters and teachers. It will make a huge difference in the lives of so many.

"These are all massive steps forward and I am delighted to have played my part, however small, in this coming into being."

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