Join as a Member!
Warm greetings to all from the newly elected CISLI Committee!
As Chairperson I would like to thank my fellow CISLI members for their support. I will do my utmost in the coming years to help grow the profession, build bridges between interpreters and the Deaf community and the wider world, and to build up solidarity amongst interpreters themselves. This, I believe, is central to moving forward with interpreting in this country. I have seen much to encourage us over the last few years in this regard.
Yet today in 2016, five years after the Irish interpreting profession re-established itself in the form of CISLI, problems remain, and new issues abound. As access becomes less of a right and more a commodity, an ever-tighter State focus on ‘value for money’ shifts the ground under our feet. New agencies – providing both spoken and sign language interpreting services – proliferate. Major interpreting contracts in colleges, hospitals, courts administration, and other public services such as the Garda Síochána, are snapped up and agreed on – without any user or practitioner involvement. Deaf people and interpreters are often bewildered at the rapid pace of this change; it often seems like those who are most likely to control provision of sign language interpreting services are the least likely to understand the unique nature of interpreting and the Deaf community.
Interpreting remains a job without a clear career path. Interpreters’ fees, having not ‘officially’ been raised for many years, are now under downward pressure, which is often perceived as a ‘race to the bottom’. Terms and conditions for interpreters – especially in relation to team working and breaks – are continually under threat. We are often told of the shortage of interpreters – but we still struggle with a sharp decline of work in the summer time, and we still hear of colleagues for whom interpreting alone cannot pay the bills. Indeed, many valued colleagues have recently left the profession because it could not provide a steady income.
For the Deaf community, there are more interpreters, but issues of quality still rankle. While the vast majority of practitioners possess a third level qualification, and new entrants to the Centre for Deaf Studies benefit from a four-year degree programme, the profile of entrants has shifted; prior knowledge of ISL and the Deaf community is more often the exception than the rule. The Deaf community have been steadfast in insisting that interpreters, in their training and as part of their profession, develop stronger links with the Deaf community; but, as in other countries, these links are often weak or absent. Agency complaints procedures are unclear and often seem ineffective, and there is still no statutory or even voluntary form of registration of interpreters.
What can we do? CISLI can play a huge part in tackling these issues. We need a strong body that represents interpreters. We are few in number and diverse in opinion. But we can focus on what is common amongst us all, and strive to put in place for Irish Sign Language interpreting those features and systems considered mandatory in other jurisdictions. It will not be easy. It will take work. But it is work that needs to be done.
In CISLI we intend to focus firstly on driving this energy by focusing on networking for interpreters. Our recent AGM saw us amend our Constitution, and now CISLI will have two Ordinary Members’ Meetings per year (one outside Dublin) as well as the AGM. We will also work on information gathering to make sure we have an accurate picture of interpreting agency provision around the country, and are proactive in pushing for appropriate terms and conditions for interpreters – regardless of agency.
We will also begin to look at wider issues of crucial importance to our relationship with the Deaf community. It is a desire of mine as Chairperson to examine the issue of complaints procedures. Many Deaf people are feeling poorly served by the existing complaints procedures of agencies. CISLI’s founding documents envisage us having a role in dispute resolution; we need to decide whether to excise these elements of our foundational documents, or to embrace them and develop a role in this area. It makes no sense to me for CISLI to have zero involvement in investigating alleged breaches of the CISLI Code of Ethics.
I feel we must also begin to proactively examine the area of licensing / registration of interpreting practitioners. No profession assumes that practitioners will remain at the same level of skill after qualification, without some form of structured CPD or further assessment of skills. We must grasp that receiving our qualification is the beginning, and not the end, of our learning. This has historically been a deeply controversial topic for interpreters, but we must respect the fact that Deaf people want, and deserve, a system of safeguarding to make sure the practitioners they work with have the capability to do the job.
None of these issues will be looked at without intense discussion with and between CISLI members. It is our hope that the majority of practising interpreters will join CISLI this coming year. We want a membership that is supporting and supported. We need a profession that is diverse yet united. And we want to widen and deepen our relationship with the Deaf community – without whom none of us would be where we are today.
Please let us know any thoughts or opinions you may have on our profession, in English or ISL. We look forward to working with you all.
- Cormac Leonard, Chairperson
- Frankie Berry, Vice Chair
- Pauline McMahon, Secretary
- Imelda Gibbons, Treasurer
- Anthony Claffey, Ordinary Member
- Amanda Mohan, Ordinary Member
- Ciara Grant, Student Representative
- Senan Dunne, IDS Representative
Council of Irish Sign Language Interpreters (CISLI)