Comedian’s prank sign language upsets deaf community

Ross Browne ‘interpreted’ his own version of Enda Kenny’s speech in Cork

The deaf community have failed to see the humour in a Cork comedian's attempt to act as a sign language interpreter during a speech by Enda Kenny.

Mr Kenny was in Cork this week speaking at a forum on Brexit when comedian Ross Browne stood up and acted out his own version of what the Taoiseach was saying.

Mr Browne’s antics are captured in an online video to which subtitles purporting to relate to what he “signed” have been added.

Standing at the front of the room, he continued to prank Mr Kenny for a minute before he was approached and made to stop.


The Irish Deaf Society has responded to the jest by calling on Mr Browne to highlight the "lived reality" of exclusion experienced by the community.

While Mr Browne’s parody has been widely watched online, deaf people struggle to gain access to the mainstream media, it points out. Requests for coverage of their disenfranchisement due to the lack of recognition for Irish Sign Language falls on “deaf ears”.

It says the irony was that Mr Browne was “caught out” only because the organisers knew there would not be an interpreter at the event, as a member of the public had enquired about interpreting services beforehand.

Irish deaf people are up to 10 times less likely to attend university, due to the lack of recognition and legal supports for sign language, the society says.

“We are 2-4 times more likely to be unemployed than our hearing peers. We are two to three times more likely to suffer abuse than our hearing peers and two to four times more likely to experience clinically significant emotional distress.”

The Council of Irish Sign Language Interpreters criticised Mr Browne’s “fake interpreter” performance.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times