Senator Mark Daly has called for Sign Language Interpreters to be allowed on to the floor of the Dail for taoiseach questions this week

Senator Mark Daly, on behalf of the Irish Deaf Society has written to the Ceann Comhairle and the Caothoirleach to request Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreters be on the floor of the Dail for Taoiseach’s questions and in the Seanad for the Order of Business next week, while members of the deaf community attend the public galleries. Senator Daly, who is nominated to the Seanad by the Irish Deaf Society commented “There is nothing more ironic than a Government cutting funding for a service that speaks for people who cannot speak for themselves. They were told in an e-mail that their appeal would be heard by telephone. That is the equivalent of asking an illiterate person to make an appeal in writing. This issue needs to be highlighted and debated. Perhaps by the Deaf community attending Oireachtas proceedings next week, it may highlight the disadvantage that they have in relation to accessing a broad range of public services.”

The Irish Deaf Society’s (IDS) National Advocacy Service for Deaf people was forced to close its office with full loss of staff following an announcement by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government that its funding was to be discontinued with immediate effect. The announcement puts a halt to 11 years of services for the Deaf population of Ireland with an estimated 5,000 people affected.

The Senator has written to the Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach to request that both Houses of the Oireachtas have an ISL interpreter in place next week, when members from the Deaf community will attend proceedings.

Discussing the request, IDS CEO Eddie Redmond said: “ we are seriously concerned for the welfare of Deaf community members, many of whom have come to depend on the advocacy service as the only viable service for them.”

The IDS is Ireland’s national representative group for Deaf people of whom their Advocacy Service is their main branch of work. Its closure leaves a gaping hole in services which sought to bridge a socio-economic divide between Deaf people and their hearing counterparts. Citing poor employment and salary prospects, low participation in 3rd level Education, and lower health expectancy, the IDS identified the Deaf population as a marginalised, socially isolated, and discriminated against minority group. The IDS’ Advocacy Service worked to provide access for Deaf people to public services, education, healthcare and the means to employment. The service’s closure puts the Deaf community at further risk of social and economic isolation and a decline in living standards.

The IDS are currently appealing the decision through Pobal on behalf of the Department.

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