Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

1:05 pm

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I also welcome the Minister of State. I am happy to see she is back in full bloom. Along with my colleagues, I welcome all of the representatives of the deaf community here in Ireland.

I am particularly aware of the disability that deafness brings in one area because I have spent much of my working life as a broadcaster. I can remember when I started first that I became aware of the blind community, who relied to a considerable extent on radio. It was following on that awareness that I became more acutely aware of the significant disadvantage that both the hard of hearing and the deaf had in that what we take for granted - the music of all genres that we enjoy when we switch on the radio - is completely denied to all of these people and to their contemporaries. Of course, one could say that as television developed, those who were blind have suffered from being denied the access whereas those who are deaf have got, as a result of modern technology, at least some access to broadcasting. In that context, I welcome the Minister of State's reference in her comprehensive presentation, for which I compliment her, as I know she has already been complimented by the Chair and others, that the "Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is committed to continuing to pursue, with RTE, delivery of television programmes with Irish Sign Language in line with this legislation and the commitment given in the national disability strategy implementation plan and in this regard mainstream programming with Irish Sign Language interpretation is due to commence on 16 October covering three hours per week approximately". That is a welcome initiative. It is a small step. I am aware, from discussions with my colleague, Senator Daly, that while this initiative is to be welcomed, in line with other public institutions, it does not legally oblige RTE to provide this service. They are doing it because, obviously, the Government and the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, and her Department have put the pressure on them to do this, if that were necessary. In fairness, to RTE, I am sure that it acquiesced easily anyway and responded favourably.

However, it points to the weakness in the argument put forward by the Government. The lack of legislation does not make it legally obligatory for a public institution to provide the type of service that it might now be providing on a piecemeal basis or, to the best of its ability, on a more comprehensive basis. That is why I believe the passage of legislation would help the deaf community considerably. It has been campaigning for that for well over 30 years.

My main reason for standing to speak today was to express solidarity with the deaf community, not to offer some great pearls of wisdom to the debate. We are with the community in every way possible and we hope the Government will see fit to look favourably on Senator Daly's Bill when he introduces it. I read it today and it is very comprehensive. It has almost 30 sections and covers all the aspects of the debate and the argument put forward by the Irish Sign Language recognition group and the deaf community over several decades. It also takes account of international best practice.

Finally, I compliment the 16 local authorities which have passed motions calling for ISL recognition in the last 12 months and I call on the remaining local authorities to do this. Perhaps the town councils, as one of their final acts in the months to come, will take up this cause. As a politician, the Minister knows there is nothing more effective than continuing and persistent lobbying. If one keeps banging the wall long enough and loud enough, the Government listens. I wish the community well in that regard.


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