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Important Step on road to ISL Recognition


On October 19th another important step on the road to Irish Sign Language (ISL) recognition was achieved. Senator Mark Daly.

Senator Mark Daly


The Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016 passed the Second Stage in the Seanad with all party support. Official recognition of ISL is important for not only giving status to ISL as an indigenous and native language, but also in ensuring that the Rights of Deaf people to access public services and engage in active citizenship are upheld.

This was the third time that the Bill had been introduced by Senator Mark Daly in the Seanad, having been defeated on two previous ocassions. Senator Daly and the Irish Deaf Society are to be congratulated on a very effective campaign that achieved unanimous support from all Senators this time around. The next stage of the legislative process is the Committee Stage and this is expected to begin early in the New Year.

No opposition at Cabinet

The Minister of State for Disability, Finian McGrath TD welcomed the new Bill in the Seanad on behalf of the Government. Perhaps most importantly, he told the Seanad that the new Bill had been discussed at the Cabinet meeting that morning, and there was no opposition in Cabinet to the Bill. Minister of State for Disability. Finian McGrath TD.

Minister of State for Disability
Finian McGrath TD


In his statement to the Seanad the Minister went on to say that there were elements of the Bill that he felt were not ideal. For example, he questioned the need for 3–year plans by public bodies and if there was a need to create another public body in the shape of an Irish Sign Language Council.

The Minister also made a crucial point which is at the heart of the ISL Recognition Bill: he said that public bodies need ‘to provide services in the language of the consumer’. This is an explicit acknowledgement by a Government Minister that public service providers need to provide services to Deaf people who use ISL through ISL. Let’s hope that this becomes standard practice in the near future.

Historic Day

Although there is still a long road ahead to getting an ISL Recognition Bill enacted, October 19th 2016 was still an important step in this process. Given the long struggle and the many years of social exclusion and marginalisation experienced by Deaf people, it was an emotional and historic day for many members of the Deaf Community.

Senator Daly has said that the proposed legislation “is an important step in fully, and properly, integrating the Deaf Community into wider Irish society”.

In the weeks and months ahead it will be vital that Senator Daly and the Irish Deaf Society have the full support of all the organisations involved in the Deaf Community, and that everyone continues to engage with their local representatives to ensure that the positive steps of recent days and weeks continues right through to the realisation of an ISL Recognition Act.

ISL Bill Oct 2016

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