Given recent events in a Donegal court last week, whereby a trial went ahead without an ISL interpreter present for a deaf defendant, Clare asked the Minister for Justice to ensure that this injustice is not repeated. The recognition of Irish Sign Language is at the core of this issue and is vital in order to protect the rights of deaf people in this state.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the initiatives She proposes to take to ensure that deaf citizen’s rights to Irish Sign Language interpreters is protected in order to allow them access essential State services, particularly following an incident (details supplied).
In 2013 the National Disability Authority (NDA) facilitated consultations with the Deaf Community in Ireland at my Department’s request in relation to actions that 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, in November 2013 the first special themed meeting of the National Disability Strategy Implementation Group focussed on the issue of Irish Sign Language. This meeting brought together representatives of relevant Departments, the NDA, the Deaf Community and other relevant stakeholders who reviewed the current situation across Government Departments and their Agencies with regard, in particular, to promoting recognition of Irish Sign Language, including in service provision. The Group also examined mechanisms which could promote the further use and recognition of Irish Sign Language and address practical implications for service users. Further to this meeting, the Deaf Community prepared a report to reflect their views on key actions and priorities.
As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is currently progressing a three Phase consultation process with a view to putting a new Disability Inclusion Strategy in place. Phase 2, which focused on agreeing high-level objectives for the Strategy, was completed at the end of 2015. Phase 3 will involve agreeing specific actions with timescales to deliver on each of the high-level objectives. This will commence shortly. I expect to have a set of draft actions for the Strategy for publication shortly. The consultations on this draft will include consideration by the National Disability Strategy Steering Group and, as with Phase 2, a series of regional consultation meetings. The Strategy will then be revised as necessary and submitted to Government for final approval.
Issues in relation to the Deaf Community have featured strongly in the consultation process to date and I intend that the new Disability Inclusion Strategy will respond credibly to the issues raised, including making a real difference in relation to facilitating the use of Irish Sign Language and ensuring that public bodies provide ISL users with ISL interpretation when availing of their statutory services.