Irish deaf community hit out at comedian who posed as an interpreter to heckle Enda Kenny in Cork
“CISLI gets the joke, but this does not remove the offence felt by both professional interpreters and Deaf people.”
The Council of Irish Sign Language Interpreters (CISLI) have expressed their “disappointment and faint amusement” at a stunt pulled by comedian Ross Browne, who pretended to be an interpreter in order to heckle Taoiseach Enda Kenny during a speech in Cork on Monday night.
Browne, who will be familiar to viewers of The Fear and Republic of Telly, stood in front of Kenny on stage and performed a series of gestures implying that Kenny, according to the subtitles on the video, was a “liar” and that he was talking “bullshit”.
Browne was eventually confronted and removed from the room, not before shouting “I’m not paying for my water anyway” to cheers from the audience. At the time of writing, Browne’s video has received almost 250,000 views.
CISLI issued a statement on Wednesday expressing their “disappointment and faint amusement” with Browne’s stunt.
While they acknowledged that Browne wasn’t booked for the event and that they understand “the premise of using platforms such as these for purposes of social and political activism,” they said it was “disheartening to see this tactic used in such a way as to undermine professional sign language interpreters, Deaf people, and Irish Sign Language”.
“CISLI gets the joke, but this does not remove the offence felt by both professional interpreters and Deaf people,” the statement read.
“Regardless of the intention of the stunt, the message was delivered by poking fun at sign language. Presumably, in his comedy act, Ross Browne would not perform stereotypical accents of ethnic minorities.
“One wonders as to why the same form of ridicule is propagated against Deaf people – regardless of intent. ISL is a complex, rich, beautiful and historical language of the Deaf community in Ireland. It deserves better than the easy mockery of a viral prank.
“We hope the progress of the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016, currently before the Seanad, will not be affected by this comedic dig at the language of Deaf people.”
CISLI said that the stunt mocked “the emerging profession of sign language interpreting, and possibly casts doubt on our status as professional, impartial language experts” and that it drew attention to the lack of regulation in the profession.
On a positive note, they also acknowledged that, because of the stunt, people are talking again about the importance of registration for interpreters, “a subject dear to the hearts of ISL (Irish Sign Language) professionals".
You can read the statement in full here.