Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Equality & Integration Fiona O’Loughlin has called on the Health Minister explain why a decision on funding for the Irish Deaf Society has not been made.

A decision on funding for 2019 was due in November, but no announcement has been made, and the organisation is now worried that it may have to severely restrict services, or even close in the new year.

Deputy O’Loughlin commented, “I was shocked when I was contacted by a member of the Irish Deaf Society yesterday who outlined the funding situation to me.  Only one year ago, the society marked a huge step forward with the passage of the Irish Sign Language Act, which received huge support, but now the organisation is facing closure.

“I find it completely unacceptable that the Irish Deaf Society has been left to operate in a vacuum.  It is now late December and because of the lack of a decision by the HSE with regard to funding, the society is unable to plan for services for the coming year.  This paralysis cannot be allowed to continue.

“Management says it has been left with no choice but to consider issuing “at risk” protective notice to staff in January.  It also says it may have to prepare for the possibility of the winding up of the IDS.  This is a horrendous situation for people – staff and service users – to be facing in the new year.

“The importance of the Irish Deaf Society cannot be underestimated – it provides training, information and support services for deaf people, their families and their communities.  It pushes the empowerment agenda and was integral in working with TDs and Senators to bring the Irish Sign Language Act to fruition.

“Minister Harris and the HSE have serious questions to answer – why has a decision on funding been delayed?  Are they committed to supporting the deaf community?  When can the IDS expect a decision to be made?

“This delay is threatening the very future of the Irish Deaf Society.  A decision is needed urgently and I am urging the Minister and the HSE to make it a matter of priority”, concluded Deputy O’Loughlin.