Singing in Irish Sign Language

Posted on: 16 December 2016

A video of three Trinity students using Irish Sign Language to perform the popular ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ has gone viral. Centre for Deaf Studies students Abbie O’Neill, Joanne O’Donnell and Amy Durkin made the video in a bid to raise awareness about Irish Sign Language. 

Their festive video has been viewed more than 238,000 times, liked over 1,800 times and has secured over 1,200 shares to date. 

The students saw the video as an opportunity to raise awareness about the fact that Irish Sign Language (ISL) isn’t recognised in Ireland, meaning that Deaf people here are often cut off due to lack of interpreters and language rights in general, according to Abbie.


"This video is for Deaf adults and especially Deaf children so that they can watch it and be included in festivities like songs at this time of year,” explained Abbie.  Currently ISL isn't officially recognised in Ireland, even though it is the second indigenous language of Ireland. According to the Irish Deaf Society, ISL is the preferred vehicle of communication for 5,000 people in this country.

The Seanad recently voted in favour of the Recognition of Irish Sign Language (ISL) for the Deaf Community Bill 2016. This ISL recognition campaign, led by Assistant Professor and co-director at the Centre for Deaf Studies Dr John Bosco Conama, aims to end social exclusion that members of the Deaf community face. If ISL was officially recognised, it would improve access to public services, medical information and online services, according to Dr Conama.  The bill will be brought forward to committee stage in the Dáil next month.

Trinity is the only university in the country offering an undergraduate programme leading to professional qualifications in Irish Sign Language teaching, Irish Sign Language/English interpreting and in the academic discipline of Deaf Studies.

The Centre for Deaf Studies was established in 2001, prior to this there was no fixed setting for studies in this field. Now the Centre has more than seventy students who have graduated, approximately one third of whom are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

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