Deaf community dismisses RTÉ's national anthem proposal as unacceptable

Deaf community dismisses RTÉ's national anthem proposal as unacceptable
Members of the deaf community and sign language users protesting outside RTE studios. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The Deaf community has dismissed RTÉ’s proposal to simulcast a signed performance of the National Anthem ahead of Sunday's All Ireland football final on RTÉ News Now as unacceptable and disrespectful to the anthem.

In a statement last night, members of the Stop Hiding ISL (Irish Sign Language) campaign who are fighting for the right to access events in the official language, also said the proposal would relegate the anthem to a separate channel to mainstream viewers, and potentially force Deaf fans to watch it separately from hearing family and friends.

"Members of the Deaf community believe that RTÉ’s intention of moving Amhrán na bhFiann to a separate channel is highly disrespectful to the National Anthem, and therefore unacceptable," they said.

"The ISL version is a faithful rendition of the sentiment contained in the song, and is accompanied by music.

"Failure to show the ISL version on television while it is being performed is the equivalent of RTÉ interfering with the singing of the National Anthem."

The simulcast proposal emerged on Thursday evening after a meeting between RTÉ executives and members of the Irish Deaf Society following a series of protests by Deaf activists outside RTÉ studios earlier.

They were protesting over the state broadcaster's coverage of an ISL interpreter during the Pope's meeting with the Taoiseach in Dublin Castle last weekend, and over the broadcast for just a few seconds of the first performance of the ISL version of the national anthem before the All Ireland hurling final.

They have accused the state broadcaster of continuing to hide ISL and marginalise Deaf people.

RTÉ has rejected the criticism and defended its commitment to the Deaf community.

It said the simulcast arrangements it had now put in place will ensure that viewers who wish to watch ISL signing of the national anthem in full, throughout its two-minute duration before Sunday's match, are accommodated.

But campaigners said: "RTÉ’s approach is an attempt to frame a practice of exclusion, discrimination and segregation as a progressive move, rather than the regressive step that it is."

They said signed language interpretation is provided regularly at prestigious and significant events around the world, including at the Super Bowl, and that picture-in-picture interpreting - when the image of the interpreter is superimposed on the viewer’s screen (the interpreter in the bubble) - is often used.

They also pointed out that ISL interpreters featured prominently during TV coverage of the severe weather crises events earlier this year.

"At present #StopHidingISL is in consultation with the Deaf community to determine the next steps should be taken with a view to resolving this issue," they said.

RTÉ News Now is on Saorview, Virgin Media, Sky and Eir, as well as online and on the RTÉ News Now App (Apple and Android).

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