Ireland has about 800,000 people with some degree of hearing loss, or about 17% to 20% of the total population. This number includes 1,077 Deaf native ISL users, verbal deaf or deafened people and senior citizens.
About 3,300 deaf/hard-of-hearing children are in Ireland’s education system. Of this total, 90% attend mainstream schools, with 10% at specialist schools. NCSE statistics show fewer than 4% of this total use sign language.
Two Spoken Languages Are Viable
With cochlear implants, deaf children can be fluent in one or more spoken languages (whether sign is used). This is a new form of bilingualism!
Spoken bilingualism in children with hearing-devices is documented in the US and in several countries in Europe.
Sign language has a very different syntax to written English, so any children may be learning two or more languages at the same time during their school years.
Spoken Bilinguism Differs To Sign Bilinguism
One language may be best for children with implants (Leiden, 2012). English can be the second language in sign bilingualism, which means literacy in deaf children needs more work and sustained practice to develop.
A background to traditional bilingualism, as in the deaf culture versus the oral-only debate, is very well-written by Sym Gardiner, of 2ears2hear in New Zealand.