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Question

152. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will commit legislatively to making Irish sign language available to all deaf children, a service that is currently unavailable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35802/15]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin): The Programme for Government includes a commitment to "examine different mechanisms to promote the recognition of Irish sign language" and this process is ongoing. At the request Department of Justice the National Disability Authority (NDA) facilitated consultations with the Deaf Community in Ireland to identify actions for inclusion in the National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan which could make improvements in the lives of deaf people. Submissions received as part of that process informed the National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan which was published in July 2013. As part of the follow-up to that initiative, the first special themed meeting of the National Disability Strategy Implementation Group (NDSIG) focussed on the issue of Irish Sign Language on 28 November 2013. This meeting brought together representatives of relevant Departments, the NDA, the Deaf Community and other relevant stakeholders with a view to further progressing the inclusion of actions for the Strategy in this regard. The meeting reviewed the current situation across Government Departments and their Agencies with regard to promoting recognition of Irish Sign Language, including in service provision, and provided the Deaf Community with the opportunity of presenting their experience of interaction with the Public Sector. It also provided a useful opportunity to examine mechanisms which could promote the further use and recognition of Irish Sign Language and understand practical implications for service users.
Further to this meeting, the Deaf Community prepared a report to reflect their views on key actions and priorities. This report was submitted to the then Minister of State Kathleen Lynch for consideration in May 2014 and was then circulated to Departments in November 2014 for their observations. The intention now is that the recommendations from this report will be reflected as appropriate in the new Disability Inclusion Strategy to take effect as from 1 January 2016, through the incorporation of new actions and related performance indicators and time lines. Progress on all relevant actions will then be monitored as part of the monitoring process for the overall Inclusion Strategy. The focus therefore remains on the identification of practical mechanisms for the further promotion and recognition of Irish Sign Language with a view to promoting and supporting its use, thereby improving service delivery on the ground, rather than on legislation.
It should be noted that the existing supports for use of Irish Sign Language in Ireland give a level of recognition and practical measures equal to, or above that, in countries which have formally recognised sign language.