The Irish Deaf Society says that ISL "arose from within deaf communities", "was developed by deaf people themselves" and "has been in existence for hundreds of years". According to Ethnologue, the language has influence from both LSF and BSL, as well as from signed French and signed English, BSL having been introduced in Dublin in 1816. The first school for deaf children in Ireland was established in 1816 by Dr. Charles Orpen. The Claremont Institute was a Protestant institution and given that Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom, it is no surprise that BSL (or some version of signed English based in BSL) was used for teaching and learning (Pollard 2006). McDonnell (1979) reports that the Irish institutions - Catholic and Protestant - did not teach the children to speak and it was not until 1887 that Claremont report changing from a manual to an oral approach. For the Catholic schools, the shift to oralism came later: St. Mary's School for Deaf Girls moved to an oral approach in 1946 and St. Joseph's School for Deaf Boys shifted to oralism in 1956, though this did not become formal state policy until 1972. Sign language use was seriously suppressed and religion was used to further stigmatise the language (e.g. children were encouraged to give up signing for Lent and sent to confession if caught signing). The fact that the Catholic schools are segregated on the basis of gender led to the development of a gendered-generational variant of Irish Sign Language that is still evident (albeit to a lesser degree) today.
ISL was brought by Catholic missionaries to Australia and South Africa, and to Scotland and England, with remnants of ISL still visible in some variants of BSL, especially in Glasgow, and with some elderly Auslan Catholics still using ISL today.
^LeMaster 1990, Leeson and Grehan 2004, Leonard 2005, Grehan 2008
Crean, E, J. (1997): Breaking the silence: The education of the deaf in Ireland 1816-1996. Dublin: Irish Deaf Society Publication.
Department of Education (1972): The Education of Children who are Handicapped by Impaired Hearing. Dublin: Government Publications.
Grehan, C. (2008): Communication Islands: The Impact of Segregation on Attitudes to ISL among a Sample of Graduates of St. Mary's School for Deaf Girls. Unpublished M.Phil dissertation. School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences. Dublin: Trinity College.
Griffey, N. (1994): From Silence to Speech: Fifty years with the Deaf. Dublin: Dominican Publications.
Leeson, L. and C. Grehan (2004): "To The Lexicon and Beyond: The Effect of Gender on Variation in Irish Sign Language". In Van Herreweghe, Mieke and Myriam Vermeerbergen (eds.): To the Lexicon and Beyond: Sociolinguistics in European Deaf Communities. Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press. 39-73.
Leeson, L. and J. I. Saeed (2012) Irish Sign Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
LeMaster, B. (1990): The Maintenance and Loss of Female and Male Signs in the Dublin Deaf Community. Ann Arbor: U.M.I .: University of California, Los Angeles Dissertation.
Leonard, C. (2005): "Signs of diversity: use and recognition of gendered signs among your Irish Deaf people". In: Deaf Worlds 21:2. 62-77
McDonnell, P. (1979): The Establishment and Operation of Institutions for the Education of the Deaf in Ireland, 1816-1889. Unpublished essay submitted in part-fulfillment of the requirements of the award of the degree of Master in Education. Dublin: University College Dublin.
McDonnell, P. and Saunders, H. (1993): "Sit on Your Hands: Strategies to Prevent Signing". In Fischer, R. and Lane, H. (eds.) Looking Back: A Reader on the History of Deaf Communities and their Sign Languages. Hamburg: Signum. 255-260.
Pollard, Rachel (2006): The Avenue. Dublin: Denzille Press.
^a Sign-language names reflect the region of origin. Natural sign languages are not related to the spoken language used in the same region. For example, French Sign Language originated in France, but is not related to French.