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I refer to a recent decision by Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, to cease providing funding for the National Advocacy Service for Deaf People under the aegis of the Irish Deaf Society. The decision is short-sighted and defies logic.
Indeed, as one of the original creators of this service, I am baffled and horrified.
The decision was apparently based on a criteria which obliged voluntary organisations to compete with each other for vital funding, rendering any uniqueness that a service may have irrelevant. This particular service is run by peer advocates and is a space where deaf people can receive various services through their first language — Irish Sign Language — and is unique in this country. Investment in this service saves a considerable amount of money on the interpreting fees that would be required if the service users had to avail of mainstream services. The decision will result in a greater sense of helplessness and dependence upon the State among deaf people, despite the Government professing that this is something it wishes to decrease.
In addition, last January, the Government rejected the Irish Sign Language Bill that came before Seanad Éireann. Minister for State with responsibility for disability, Kathleen Lynch, delivered a statement on behalf of the Government explaining that it could not support the bill as “We need to put the service in place before we put the legislation in place”.
Given this most recent decision, the statement seems hollow and an empty promise to many of us in the deaf community, though perhaps it exemplifies a lack of intergovernmental coordination. I hope the Minister will heed this appeal and act in a favourable manner.
Dr John Bosco Conama
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