'Not all children are cherished equally': Father of deaf Cork boy considering High Court action

Calum Geary has fallen behind his twin brother Donnacha simply because the State will not provide an Irish Sign Language interpreter to help him in the classroom
'Not all children are cherished equally': Father of deaf Cork boy considering High Court action

Calum Geary and twin brother Donnacha and dad Andrew, tell Ryan Tubridy about some of the challenges deaf people face in Ireland. Donnacha, who has full hearing, has just started secondary school, while Calum is repeating sixth class.

Five months after 12-year-old Calum Geary, who is deaf, appeared on the Late Late Show with his twin brother Donnacha, his dad Andrew says the family is considering High Court action to try to secure a better future for Calum.

“Getting a basic right for your child, an education, something that’s enshrined in the Constitution, shouldn’t be this hard,” says Andrew Geary, as his family faces the arduous and costly prospect of mounting a High Court challenge in the hope of securing a full-time classroom Irish Sign Language (ISL) translator.

Calum Geary, from Ballyhooly in Co. Cork, is profoundly deaf. His twin brother Donnacha, who has full hearing, has just started secondary school, while Calum is repeating sixth class.

Calum’s only language is ISL, and without an in-classroom interpreter, Calum’s family says he cannot fully access the education which is his constitutional right.

Calum’s father, Andrew, a sergeant working in Templemore Garda College, says he and his wife Helen, who have four sons, are exhausted from the constant fight to ensure that Calum gets the same rights as his brothers.

He says they feel they have little option but to re-mortgage their home in an attempt to fund a High Court challenge. He says friends have begged them to start a GoFundMe, but he feels they have to keep that option in reserve, in case they lose.

“You have to look at the second chapter, because if you lose, you have to pay the State’s expenses, which are over €100,000, and that’s how our democracy is functioning at the moment.” Mr Geary says it is heart-breaking to see Calum – who is an extremely intelligent child – falling behind his brother Donnacha simply because the State will not provide Calum with a fully-qualified ISL interpreter to help him in the classroom.

In April, Calum and Donnacha moved viewers of RTÉ’s Late Late Show when they and Andrew spoke with presenter Ryan Tubridy, and Calum signed his concerns about the difficulties he faces, especially those caused by the lack of qualified interpreters in the classroom.

“In life, I’ll always face challenges and barriers,” Calum told Ryan Tubridy, noting that deaf students are at an immediate disadvantage in class, as pupils who have full hearing can read a book while their teacher is speaking.

“In sign language, you’ve to really stare at your teacher to try to get what they’re saying and it can be exhausting.”  Mr Geary notes with irony that in 1903, Calum’s great-great-great grandfather, Cornelius Geary, who was deaf and who was taught by deaf teachers, enjoyed a higher standard of education than Calum does in 2021, although he is quick to add that this is through no fault of Calum’s “brilliant” teachers.

(Left to right) The Geary family: Barry, Matthew, Calum, and Donnacha with mum Helen. Calum’s father, Andrew, says he and his wife Helen are exhausted from the constant fight to ensure that Calum gets the same rights as his brothers.
(Left to right) The Geary family: Barry, Matthew, Calum, and Donnacha with mum Helen. Calum’s father, Andrew, says he and his wife Helen are exhausted from the constant fight to ensure that Calum gets the same rights as his brothers.

Calum is currently attending St Columba’s National School in Douglas, in Cork, and Mr Geary says the school, which has 34 deaf and hard-of-hearing students from across Cork county, offers a wonderful facility to children like Calum, but he fears his son will struggle in secondary school without an ISL interpreter.

Mr Geary says that while deaf successes are rightly celebrated, deaf people are 10 times less likely to go to third level, four times less likely to have a job, three times more likely to suffer some form of abuse during their lifetime, and 80% of deaf people leave school with the average reading ability of an eight or nine-year-old child.

“There’s no cherishing of children equally. The parents of children with special needs have to fight tooth and nail, and they’re still fighting a losing battle most of the time, unless by the grace of God or by luck they meet the right person at the right time who might open the door for them.”

The Department of Education has not responded to a request for comment.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

logo podcast

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

IE logo

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox

LOTTO RESULTS

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

  • 3
  • 8
  • 20
  • 24
  • 28
  • 29
  • 40

Full Lotto draw results »

Execution Time: 0.23 s