Deaf pupil brings legal action seeking Irish sign language teacher

Court hears school and Minister failing to meet constitutional obligations to boy

A deaf primary school student has brought a High Court challenge compelling the Minister for Education and his school to provide him with full-time access to an Irish sign language teacher.

The court was told the boy is deaf since birth and requires to be taught by a qualified Irish sign language (ISL) teacher. Suing through his father, he cannot be identified by order of the court.

His parents are hugely concerned about his education and claim the lack of supports may have left him years behind his potential, the court heard. Represented by Derek Shortall SC and John Temple BL, it is claimed the child's parents have sought the supports the boy needs for some years, but have not received them.


The boy had at one point during his education been provided with an ISL-qualified teacher but the teacher was not provided with a contract of employment that provided benefits such as paid annual leave or protective leave.


In more recent times, the school hired special needs assistants to help the boy with his education but there have been issues over some of their qualifications, it is claimed. One qualified person had turned down the job due to the low payment being offered, it is claimed.

It is argued the Minister is obliged by the Oireachtas to provide ISL classes and supports and there are sufficient persons trained to provide such support. It is further claimed the school is legally obliged to do all that is reasonable to ensure those who cannot hear are provided with interpretation into ISL as part of their education.

Counsel said the failure to provide these supports amounts to a failure by the school and the Minister to meet their constitutional and statutory obligations to the boy. In judicial review proceedings against the Minister and the school, the child seeks various orders and declarations, including requiring the respondents to provide him with an ISL teacher within 30 days.

He also seeks declarations including that the respondents have failed to provide him with an adequate and appropriate education as required under Article 42 of the Constitution, and various Education Acts. He wants a declaration that, contrary to the 2017 Irish Sign language Act, the respondents have failed to provide him with the appropriate supports for deaf children.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan granted permission, on an ex-parte basis, to bring the challenge and returned it to next month. While satisfied to grant leave, the judge expressed concern about the court's jurisdiction to deal with issues concerning payment of teachers trained in ISL. Mr Shortall said the action did not involve issues concerning teachers' pay but was about vindicating the rights of his client.