Celebrating Irish Sign Language Day – Trinity shines a blue light on the subject

Posted on: 13 December 2021

John Bosco Conama is the director of the Centre for Deaf Studies, Trinity College Dublin

14th December 2017 is a cherished date for the Irish Deaf community because it marks the successful passing of the Irish Sign Language (ISL) Bill in the Houses of Oireachtas. The Bill was brought forward by Senator Mark Daly and is one of just 6 Bills that began life as a Private Members Bill to have entered into law in the past 80 years. And what a day that was!  The Bill was officially signed into law by President Michael D Higgins on 24th December 2017 and was formally commenced in 2020.

We celebrate 14th December as Irish Sign Language Day because this was the day when deaf people from across Ireland watched the Seanad unanimously pass the Irish Sign Language Bill. Our celebrations represent not just this one moment in time, but the 30 years of campaigning, led by the Irish Deaf Society that led to this day. Like many notable dates in history, 14th December 2017 is an historic day to be remembered for deaf people and their friends.

More than 5,000 deaf people use ISL daily along with approximately 40,000 hearing family members, friends, neighbours, and workmates.

Trinity College Dublin is home to the island of Ireland’s only Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS). CDS has had a quiet, but prominent role in the campaigning towards ISL recognition. Across the past thirty years, the Centre for Language and Communication Studies and the Centre for Deaf Studies has documented, analysed, promoted and examined ISL. Researchers have demonstrated that Irish Sign Language is a natural language and highlighted some of the gaps in access to education, healthcare, civic and cultural life experienced by deaf people as a result of lack of recognition of the language and associated lack of legal and other instruments to support and safeguard the autonomy of deaf signers (e.g. a register of appropriately skilled Irish Sign Language Interpreters).

Graduates from the CDS’s Irish Sign Language/English interpreting programme have also played a backgrounded but essential role in interpreting many of the engagements between members of the Deaf community and our public representatives, opening up the dialogue that led to the safe passage of the Act. And, across the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen how these same interpreters have played a significant role in furthering awareness of Irish Sign Language as a result of their presence in public health briefings. CDS graduates in ISL teaching and Deaf Studies have also played a significant role in increasing awareness of Irish Sign Language and working to ensure that the quality of ISL teaching delivery is to the highest possible standards.

This is social impact in practice.

To celebrate Irish Sign Language Day, we shine a blue light on key buildings. Why blue? Blues are core to the “Sign Union Flag”, the flag of the international deaf community. Dark blue represents Deafhood-Dark Blue– indicates Deafhood, an individual and collective journey to combat audism and embrace Deaf gain…”[1] while turquoise represents how the deaf communities cherish the sign Languages of the world.

In 2021, we are delighted that Trinity College Dublin will – for the first time – light up in celebration of Irish Sign Language Day.

-On behalf of the Centre for Deaf Studies in partnership with the Office of the Associate Vice Provost for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

[1] https://handeyes.wordpress.com/tag/deaf-union-flag/

Media Contact:

Katie Byrne, Senior Executive Officer | katie.s.byrne@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4168