The Cork Deaf Association hold a variety of Sign Language classes at their centre in MacCurtain Street, Cork. Contact us for more information on:

  • Accredited Sign Language Courses
  • Introduction to Sign Language courses

We can also provide you with information for:

  • one-to-one ISL tuition at the CDA centre or the venue of your choice
  • ISL classes for your class, group, workplace or organisation
  • Home Tutors

What is Irish Sign Language (ISL)?

ISL is the indigenous language of Irish Deaf people and of the Deaf community. ISL has been passed down by many generations of Deaf people. It is a visual, spatial language with its own distinct grammar. Not only is it a language of the hands, but also of the face and body.

Who uses Irish Sign Language?

There are approximately 5,000 Deaf people in Ireland whose first or preferred language is ISL. Approximately 40,000 other people, Deaf and Hearing, use ISL in addition to their first language.

Is ISL recognised in Ireland?

No. Although ISL was recognised in such legislation as the 1998 Education Act, it still has not received official status. In fact, although the European Parliament has passed two resolutions calling on member states to recognise their respective national sign languages, only 5 EU countries have done so: Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Sweden and the UK.

Why ISL recognition is important to Deaf community

The right to use one’s own language is an important human right. Like all linguistic minorities, members of the Deaf community have different degrees of access to the majority language of the wider community. For many, English is only a second or even third language. Consequently, written materials and spoken communication are often inaccessible to Deaf people. If ISL achieves official recognition, Deaf people will enjoy the same linguistic rights that Hearing people enjoy.

Benefits of ISL recognition

Recognition of ISL by the Irish Government will bring the following benefits:

  • Linguistic status for ISL users, rather than Special Needs status
  • Improved access to employment, health services and the media
  • Inclusion of ISL and Deaf studies in the National Curriculum
  • Access to interpreters’ services and enhanced interpreters’ professional training
  • Quality and consistency of ISL training delivery
  • Improved access to Justice
  • Increased access to ISL and the Deaf community for Hearing parents and families
  • Bilingual education for Deaf children giving equal status and support for learning and using ISL as well as English.

The Campaign for Irish Sign Language Recognition

Bill for Irish Sign Language Recognition Rejected by Seanad On Wednesday 22nd January 2014, a proposed Bill to enact the legal recognition of Irish Sign Language was rejected by just three votes in Seanad Eireann. The Bill was put forward by Senator Mark Daly and would have placed the Deaf Community on a much firmer footing in relation to accessing services. In discussing the Bill, Senator Daly referred to the current ‘ad hoc’ system of interpreter provision, which gives inconsistent access to services, including hospitals. The Bill included a requirement that public bodies and government departments implement action plans for Irish Sign Language, permitted the use of Irish Sign Language in Legal proceedings and provided for the regulation of Sign Language interpreters. Ireland lags seriously behind many other European countries in failing to legally recognize its indigenous Sign Language. It is also in breach of the Good Friday Agreement which provided for the official recognition of Irish Sign Language by both the North and the South. While the Northern Assembly has put provisions in place to recognize Irish Sign Language, the South has not yet done so. In debating the issue in the Seanad, many argued that it was important to develop services for the Deaf Community before legally recognizing Irish Sign Language. They believed that the alternative would be ‘putting the cart before the horse’. However, for many members of the Deaf Community, this argument side steps the main issue which is rooted in civil rights. While Irish Sign Language remains an officially ‘unrecognised’ language, the Irish Government curtails the ability of Deaf people to fully participate in Irish society. Consequently, Deaf people are denied the opportunity to be full Irish citizens. To keep up-to-date with the Campaign for Irish Sign Language Recognition, please follow the Irish Deaf Society’s Facebook page. The Cork Deaf Club is working in close partnership with the Irish Deaf Society in relation to the Campaign for Irish Sign Language recognition. You should also follow their Facebook page.


The Cork Deaf Association is located only ten minutes walk from Cork City’s central train and bus stations. View our location on the map. If you would like to get in touch with us please email us at visit our Facebook page or call now on (021) 450 6190. Alternatively you can use our inquiry form. [/box]