Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has welcomed news that Irish Sign Language (ISL) is expected to be given full official language status in the coming days.
The Ireland South MEP, who has campaigned for ISL rights both at home and in Europe, said it was a welcome development but warned that equality does not stop at recognition and that action must follow.
“I’m delighted that the Dáil is to finally get around to debating the ISL Recognition Bill, albeit a year and a half after first being introduced to the Seanad,” she said.
“This is tremendous news for the 50,000 plus ISL users in Ireland and a long overdue step to acknowledging the Deaf Community as a full, integral part of the wonderful tapestry that makes up our nation.
“This is as issue I have been campaigning for not just in Ireland but in Europe where I was able to use my position on the Culture and Education Committee to put forward a successful amendment that saw the inclusion of Sign Language translation in the EU 2018 budget.
“Most recently I raised the issue of ISL recognition at our party’s Ard Fheis last month.
“The ISL Recognition Bill is a victory not just for the Deaf Community but for all groups seeking equality. All members of society deserve the same access to services and opportunities.
“Deaf people face unique challenges in participating fully in society in both the public and private spheres.
“In particular, as I met with various groups representing Deaf people, I was horrified at the disadvantage and danger they are put in by barriers to accessing legal and healthcare services, as well as occupation health and safety alerts in their workplaces.
“The ISL Recognition Bill is fantastic news but it must be about more than just recognition; real efforts must be made to instigate tangible change; genuine equality does not stop at recognition, action must follow.
“It is crucial that ISL users are able to access all public services and in particular the Government must work with members of the Deaf Community to create a mechanism that would allow them full and timely access to public services. Deaf people must no longer be disadvantaged in the work place either, and Government must act to vindicate their rights to dignity, safety and equality at work.
“This is not just a communication issue; it is an equality issue, an issue of workers’ rights and a human rights issue.”