Deaf campaigner condemns cuts
Published 28/08/2013 | 17:37
A former teacher honoured for dedicating her life to people with hearing difficulties has accused the Government of being out of touch with Ireland's deaf community.
Maura Buckley, who received a lifetime achievement award for her work, fears cuts to services across the disability sector could lead to more isolation.
"The cuts are very, very sad," she said through a sign language interpreter.
"I don't think the people in power, the Government, really understand the needs of this group of people.
"We look 'normal' but there's a lot of barriers we face."
Ms Buckley said she was shocked and honoured to be recognised at the Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards, an annual ceremony to highlight the achievements and accomplishments of those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The 72-year-old Dubliner was a founding member of Deaf Action Group in the early 1980s, which was later known as the Irish Deaf Society.
She was the first deaf woman in Ireland to become a qualified teacher and went on to become vice principal at St Mary's School for Deaf Girls.
Kevin Mulqueen, chairman of the Irish Deaf Society, revealed cuts in funding have forced them to reduce the allocation of hours it can deliver in Irish sign language tuition and adult literacy nationwide.
Its advocacy service has also been scaled back, meaning clients were not getting the service and advice needed, he said.
"We have a number of charity shops - in Phibsboro and Ashbourne - this has really kept us going and hopefully in the future we'll have more charity shops," he added.
Legendary singer Daniel O'Donnell presented the awards at the annual ceremony which highlights the achievements and accomplishments of those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Deaflympian footballer Stuart Foy, the most capped deaf football player in Irish history, and teenager Roisin Ormond, who was recognised for her work with youngsters involved with Cork Deaf Association, were among the recipients.
The social contribution award went to the Signs of Life team for a unique photo exhibition featuring some of the biggest names in Irish music, media, arts, sport and entertainment using Irish Sign Language; while sisters Abigail and Anna Cahill from Killarney were recognised for their outstanding support to their family, particularly their younger brother Patrick Jr who has special needs.
O'Donnell said each winner was a true example of a real hero in Irish society.
"Each person has shown great determination to reach their goals and they have proven that all obstacles can be overcome," he said.
"Their achievements and successes deserve to be honoured and brought to the attention of the Irish public."
Denis Broderick, from Derry, was given the workplace award for overcoming his hearing loss to forge a successful career in the hotel and catering sector, including being international president of the hotel, catering and international management association.
The 66-year-old, who delivers wine and food classes for a wine company, revealed he "hears a lot with his eyes" and reads people's body language when hosting events.
"I'm slightly numbed," said Mr Broderick, who has raised over £65,000 for various charities and was a Torchbearer for the London Olympics last year.
"I don't myself as being disabled, I see it as being an inconvenience," he said.
"I do not feel it has held me back at all."
The ceremony was an all-Ireland joint initiative between Hidden Hearing and the Irish Deaf Society to honour those who are deaf or hard of hearing and have made a significant contribution to Irish society, their community, workplace, family or through sporting excellence.