Galway County Council has passed a motion calling on the Government to give official recognition status to Irish Sign Language.
The motion was proposed by Loughrea councillor Mogie Maher and seconded by his Fine Gael colleague Jimmy McClearn. Councillor Maher said the Government giving ISL official recognition would enhance the lives of those who use it. He also said it should be on school curricula to give people a better understanding of the language.
Members of Galway’s deaf and hard-of-hearing communities attended this week’s council meeting and expressed delight when the motion was passed following unanimous agreement from elected representatives.
The language is mentioned in the 1998 Education Act but it is viewed as merely a support tool and not as a language in its own right. However ISL is a language in its own right, and bears no relation to spoken or written languages like English or Irish. It is different to other signed languages such as those used by in Britain and the USA.
Official recognition would promote greater awareness of Irish Sign Language and enforce the right of the deaf community to access essential information in ISL. It would also mean users could access interpreter services for situations such as job interviews, using health services, police interviews, and court hearings.
The Irish Deaf Society says that while ISL is not actively encouraged in schools, it has not diminished the language which continues to thrive among the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Five thousand deaf people and up to 40,000 of their family members, friends, and peers use Irish Sign Language daily. Signed languages are recognised in many other countries including New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, and Britain.