Irish Sign language set to be officially recognised as native and independent language

Legislation that will give official recognition to sign language for the first time will move closer to becoming law when it is debated in the Dáil.

The bill, which was initiated by Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly in the Seanad last year, is set to pass all stages in the Dáil tonight.

It is expected to be signed into law within days by President Michael D Higgins.

Sign language is used by 50,000 members of the deaf community and thousands of others to communicate with them.

The passing of the Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill would mean that deaf people would be able to access State services in their own language.

Every public body would have to devise and implement an action plan to promote the use of sign language within the organisation.

The bill advocates better access to education through sign language and the provision of classes for the parents of deaf children.

It would also permit the use of sign language within the courts.

Statutory targets regarding the accessibility of TV programming would be introduced.

The bill, which the deaf community has spent decades campaigning for, advocates the establishment of an Irish Sign Language Council.

The new body would regulate sign language interpreters, teachers and deaf interpreters.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Senator Daly said the Bill will have a major impact and will end the extreme marginalisation of the deaf community.

Mr Daly said he expects there will be a transition period of a number of years as there are not enough sign language interpreters available in Ireland.

“What we are doing is making sure there is a register of interpreters available,” he added.

He said situations of having “not up-to-scratch interpreters” has happened in Ireland in the past and this Bill will make sure there is a list of interpreters who are up to standard.

He said until now many people in the deaf community have been left isolated as they have had no right of access to Government services.

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