100 Years exactly since the reading of the 1916 Proclamation – and now in Irish Sign Language
April 24, 2016
While the centenary commemoration of the 1916 Proclamation was marked on Easter Monday 28th March this year, the actual reading of the 1916 Proclamation was on 24th April 1916, shortly after noon. Today is a day to be celebrated in Ireland.
The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme commissioned Interesource Group to produce the translated video to ensure that alongside the reading of the 1916 Proclamation which guarantees “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens” that the Irish Sign Language using community would have full access to the 1916 Proclamation in their own language. This facilitates full participation of Deaf citizens on what will be an historic day. This is extremely important as Deaf citizens are continually excluded from daily participation in all walks of life, and this impinges on the opportunity to engage as full citizens. One of the reasons for this is the fact that ISL is not legally recognised or protected in Ireland as an official language of the State, a fact that increasingly marks us out from our European and International counterparts.
A bit about sign languages
Sign languages are naturally occurring languages with their own complex linguistic structures, rules and features. They are visual-spatial languages with their own distinct grammars. These grammars are embodied: the language is not simply expressed on the hands, but also via the face and body of the signer. Just as every country has its own spoken language, each country has at least one sign language too. Switzerland and Spain, has more than one sign language. On the island of Ireland, there are two sign languages – Irish Sign Language and British Sign Language, independent language systems that have intersected at various points of our complex colonial history.
Irish Sign Language is the indigenous language of the Deaf community in the Republic of Ireland (and of many Deaf people in Northern Ireland). It is estimated that 5500 Deaf people in Ireland are Irish Sign Language Users and approximately 55,000 people in general will communicate using Irish Sign Language (family, friends, co-workers, etc).
Ironically, ISL is recognised in Northern Ireland, as is British Sign Language, yet the January 2014, the Irish Sign Language (ISL) Recognition Bill 2013, proposed by Senator Mark Daly was rejected by just three votes when put to the Seanad. Clearly, there is work to be done to ensure that the fundamental right to equality for all men and women as enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation comes to pass for sign language users. Without protection for ISL, Deaf people continuously face the burden of requesting interpretation in order to facilitate access, of facing down assumptions that they are an economic burden and attitudes that suggest that it is too costly and unreasonable to ensure that linguistic barriers are removed. Refusing to facilitate linguistic access is akin to refusing physical access – but for signers, the significant lack of accessible information has a cumulative effect: exclusion.
This translation is one small, but significant step in the direction towards changing the status quo.
The visibility of the Proclamation in Irish Sign Language helps to push the ISL recognition agenda forward, by raising awareness of the language and of its importance. We are hopeful that awareness of the Proclamation will facilitate the opening up of the conversation about what real access looks like for sign language users. For example, our national broadcaster continually fails to include ISL interpreters in their camera shots when an interpreter is standing beside a speaker such as our President or a politician delivering a speech. This is akin to knowing that there is sound available, but that a broadcaster has decided that you simply cannot have access to that, despite the local organisers taking into consideration the access needs of the Deaf community when planning their event. Thus, even while a Deaf person pays the same license fee as their fellow hearing citizens, content accessibility is compromised. And, it is not about the cost – the event planner, such as the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme office, has already funded the cost of the interpreting. All that is left to ensure access is awareness – and commitment – on the part of programme producers to include the interpreter in the camera shot. Sometimes the simplest of solutions have the greatest of impacts.
Let’s hope that in 3016 (when we are all long gone), Irish Deaf people will be able to look back at the 2016 ISL Proclamation and be proud of what we have accomplished in the interim period.
The project team was led by Haaris Sheikh, Chief Executive of Interesource Group.
Translation and Presentation
Centre for Deaf Studies, Trinity College Dublin
Professor Lorraine Leeson
Nora Duggan (ISL monitor)
Irish Deaf Society
Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme