The Programme for Government includes a commitment to "examine different mechanisms to promote the recognition of Irish Sign Language". This process has already commenced.
The National Disability Authority (NDA) facilitated consultations with the Deaf Community in Ireland in 2012 at my request in relation to actions that could make improvements in the lives of deaf people and submissions received from them were considered for inclusion where possible and appropriate in the National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan (NDSIP) which was published in July 2013.
As part of the follow-up to that initiative, I chaired the first special themed meeting of the National Disability Strategy Implementation Group (NDSIG) on the issue of Irish Sign Language on November 28, 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 implementation of the NDSIP 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 for my consideration last month. The intention is that the recommendations from this report, where practicable, will be reflected in the NDSIP through the incorporation of new actions and related performance indicators and timelines where necessary. Progress on all relevant actions will then be monitored as part of the Implementation Plan monitoring process. The focus therefore remains on the identification of 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 its designation as an official language.
The existing legislation in Ireland gives a level of recognition and practical measures equal to, or above that, in countries which have formally recognised sign language.