President Mary McAleese Opens Centre for Deaf Studies in Trinity College Dublin

Posted on: 12 November 2001

The number of Irish Sign Language (ISL/English) interpreters in Ireland will more than treble over the next five years, increasing from 20 to 65, due to the establishment of the Centre for Deaf Studies in Trinity College Dublin which was officially opened on 12 November 2001 by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.

There are currently fewer than 20 professional ISL/English interpreters who serve a deaf community of approx. 4,500 in Ireland. Sweden has a similar deaf population in number and more than 350 professional interpreters but they still report a shortage.

The Centre marks a watershed for the Irish Deaf Community according to Lorraine Leeson, Director of the Centre for Deaf Studies. “For the first time in Ireland, there will be an annual intake of students who will train as ISL tutors and interpreters. It will also offer Deaf students an opportunity to confidently experience third level education using ISL as their primary language of communication in the classroom”.

Trinity College has had a long history of co-operation with the Irish Deaf Society. In 1992 the College participated in the EU funded HORIZON programme and made professional sign language interpreter and tutor training available in this country for the first time. Funding has now been provided to the Centre for Deaf Studies through the Higher Education Authority for a five year period.

The Centre runs two full-time undergraduate Diploma programmes: a Diploma in ISL Teaching and a Diploma in ISL/English Interpreting. Next year it will launch a third undergraduate Diploma programme in general Deaf Studies. ISL is the primary language of communication at the Centre with English as the second language.

“Deaf students are the most under-represented group of disadvantaged students accessing third level education in Ireland. A survey conducted for the Higher Education Authority in the academic year 1998/9 stated that there were only 34 deaf students in any form of third level education” stated the Provost, Dr. John Hegarty. “Today, Trinity College is pleased that there are 11 deaf students attending the College and these numbers are set to increase with the establishment of the Centre for Deaf Studies”.