Members of deaf community to protest RTÉ over sign language misrepresentation 5 years ago

Members of deaf community to protest RTÉ over sign language misrepresentation

Protests kick off all across the country this Thursday.

The Irish deaf community has announced that they plan to protest outside a number of RTÉ buildings across the country later this week over claims that the national broadcaster has misrepresented Irish Sign Language (ISL) on television as of late.


This comes as deaf communities feel that ISL was not given enough air time during two recent, huge events to broadcast on RTÉ; the Papal visit and the All-Ireland Hurling Final.

At time of writing, protests have been planned for locations outside of RTÉ buildings located in Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Dublin.

Eimear O'Rourke, a member of Cork Deaf Association and ISL teacher, took to Twitter to share details of the protest, set to take place this Thursday.

"This Thursday Cork Deaf people will protest outside RTÉ Cork City at 4.30pm," the tweet read.


"Meet In Imperial Hotel at 3.30pm then waking to RTE studio, please share and spread it. #StopHidingISL"

An open letter by the Irish Deaf Society revealed that the reason for the protest is that they feel RTÉ did not show the ISL version of the national anthem on screen for long enough and also that it didn’t have enough representation of it during televised coverage of the Pope’s visit.


“The Deaf community had no ISL interpretation for any of the Pope’s coverage on RTÉ,” the open letter said.

"Whilst interpreters were visible in the background at all these events, it was disappointing that they were not included on screen for Deaf viewers at home watching the proceedings.

"Had the interpreter been situated on stage translating into Irish Sign Language, it would have given Deaf viewers at home full access to the proceedings."


O'Rourke, who herself is an ISL teacher, sent a video to the body that is organising the protest, explaining why the glaring omission of the ISL national anthem has left the deaf community feeling excluded from the narrative.

"Stop hiding our language, open your mind to it!" O'Rourke signs.

"Film it, show it!"


ISL – which got legal recognition last Christmas Eve – is now officially the third language of Ireland.

Speaking to JOE, a StopHidingISL spokesperson mentioned the hard work that went into the ISL national anthem finally being recognised.

"The national anthem was translated into ISL as part of the Seanad review on the national anthem. The official translation was launched in July.

"That came about thanks to a young student in Bishopstown Community School in Cork, who saw that his hearing classmates preparing and performing the national anthem at a visit by the Lord Mayor, but there was no ISL version.

"So the GAA organised for an interpreting team to perform it publicly for the first time at the All Ireland Hurling Final. It should have been a really proud moment, to see it being performed live on such a prestigious occasion.

"But then RTÉ showed a few seconds of it. And then the pope's visit happened, and there were similar situations."

This, in turn, lead to a number of complaints being sent to RTÉ, who responded by saying "that they needed to show the totality of the occasion while the national anthem was on."

The source then went on to say that "the immediate goal is for RTÉ to show the national anthem in ISL in full at the All-Ireland Football Final."

"There have been times when interpreters were in attendance at big events, like at Dublin Castle at the weekend. Normally, at events like that, the interpreter would be standing on the stage, as the person was giving their speech. And the cameras could capture that.

"But that's not what happened, and we would like RTÉ to use these opportunities to make events accessible to viewers at home. The interpreter is there already, so why not maximise their usefulness?"

RTÉ recently revealed to the Irish Times that it would not have been possible to provide ISL coverage during the visit of Pope Francis.

A spokesman for the broadcaster went on to say that ISL is often difficult to capture satisfactorily for home viewers.

The protest, set to take place this Thursday, also calls for RTÉ to broadcast the full ISL performance of the national anthem during the All-Ireland Football Final this Sunday.

A petition – containing 4,544 signatures at time of writing – which calls for the language to be properly televised at this weekend's final, will be hand delivered to RTÉ during Thursday's protest.

The organisers of the protest and petition make the point that both deaf members of the community and those who have full access to their hearing should be able to receive the same amount of information from national events.

"Ask yourself this - is this fair that the members of the Deaf community pay their full TV licence, and yet do not get equal access to content, and their inclusion denied?"