One category of institution that was not included in full Investigation Committee hearings comprised three schools for deaf children. It was clear that members of the deaf community wanted to participate. In the consultation period that took place in early 2004, Mr Kevin Stanley and other officials of the Irish Deaf Society attended meetings and offered assistance, and were enthusiastic about their members’ desire to be part of the investigation process. The numbers of persons (109 in total) who notified the Investigation Committee that they wished to participate in its proceedings in respect of deaf schools were as follows: St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra – 65 St Mary’s School for Deaf Girls, Cabra – 23 Mary Immaculate School for the Deaf, Beechpark, Stillorgan – 21.
At the Emergence hearings held in public, when the investigation recommenced in 2004, Mr Kevin Stanley of the Irish Deaf Society highlighted an issue that was of major concern to his members, namely the policy that was imposed by the Department of Education on deaf schools of preferring oralism over signing as a method of communication. The contention was that this policy was ill-considered and unjustified. It made communication difficult between children educated under the new system and their families, who were used to sign language. It was also argued that the methods employed to implement the policy were abusive, because the school authorities used corporal punishment for that purpose. This last point could be examined in the general context of physical abuse in the School, but the policy issue was a different matter. The discovery material and Submissions make it clear that there was a real question of principle that had to be decided as to the method of communication to be taught in schools. There were arguments on each side as between oralism and signing, with advantages and disadvantages accompanying whichever was chosen. The decision that was made can be rationally justified. In those circumstances, it was not the function of an investigation into abuse to try to determine whether the policy choice was the best available, even if it could be argued that a different option would have been preferable. Another problem about this issue is that the policy does not appear to have been applied in more recent times. This complaint, accordingly had to be excluded, subject to the point about the implementation of the policy by means that constituted physical abuse.