In Cork, Ireland — there was a comedian who acted as a fake sign language interpreter while the Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland, Enda Kenny, was giving a speech about Brexit. The comedian’s name is Ross Browne. During the speech, he made several signs such as “pinocchio,” “bull****,” gave him the middle finger, did some fake signs — and it went on for almost a minute before someone approached him and asked him to leave.
The President of the Irish Deaf Society said the comedian is fortunate to get attention because Irish Deaf people have been struggling to get media recognition that they are often excluded from society due to a lack of government recognition of Irish Sign Language. He said it was ironical that the event organizers only knew that the interpreter was fake because they had denied an earlier request for a sign language interpreter.
The president asked the comedian to ask him to help bring attention to the barriers Irish Deaf people face and the need for awareness of Irish Sign Language.
The Cork Deaf Association (CDA) released a statement that said the comedian falsely claimed he consulted with CDA before the ‘interpreting gig.” The CDA said they did not know of the comedian’s plans and said that before the event, he actually spoke with the CDA’s receptionist and asked to borrow a hearing aid or a fundraising bib with their logo on it for a comedy sketch, but was denied.
The CDA said some Deaf people thought it was funny but that many others thought it was offensive and a mockery of Irish Sign Language — adding that there needs to be government recognition of Irish Sign Language and that there is a proposed bill to recognize Irish Sign Language that is moving very slowly in the Irish legislature — and that the real tragedy here is that the absence of interpreters for public events is common. They’ve invited Brown to come to the CDA to learn about the issues.
The Council of Irish Sign Language Interpreters (CISLI) said they were disappointed and faintly amused by the event — and said explicitly that Browne was not booked to interpret for the event and that it was disheartening that he used this tactic to undermine professional sign language interpreters, Deaf people, and Irish Sign Language — and that they deserve better than being used for a viral prank.
Browne posted a comment under his Facebook video saying he has spread awareness about the Irish Deaf people’s struggles to get sign language recognition and their lack of services.
Comedian Video: https://www.facebook.com/onlyrossbrowne/
Irish Deaf Society Press Release/Statement: https://www.irishdeafsociety.ie/news-events/press-release-wednesday-15th-february-2017/
CDA Press Release: https://www.facebook.com/corkdeaf/posts/10154363391863404
CISLI Press Release: https://cisli.ie/2017/02/15/ross-browne-incident-cisli-press-release/