DUP resort to insults

DUP Leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson has sought to defend one of his MPs who launched a tirade against Sinn Fein over the weekend.

DUP Leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson has sought to defend one of his MPs who launched a tirade against Sinn Fein over the weekend.

Addressing the DUP’s annual conference in County Down East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell told delegates that the DUP would be treating Sinn Fein’s wishlist over an Irish Language Act as “no more than toilet paper”.

Earlier this month, Campbell, who also sits at Stormont, was barred from speaking in the chamber for a day after causing offense to Irish speakers.

During a debate, he opened his remarks by declaring, “Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer”. In Irish, the sentence “go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle” means “thank you, Speaker” and is used by nationalist MLAs.

At the time, Sinn Fein’s culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín accused Campbell of “pure ignorance”. However he sought to make a joke about this to the DUP conference over the weekend, declaring:

“It is never a good thing to start off with an unhealthy breakfast. So I got some yoghurt today.And I’m looking forward to lunch, because they tell me there’s some curry there.”

He continued:

“On behalf of our party let me say clearly, and slowly so that Caitriona Ruane and Gerry Adams understand, we will never agree to an Irish Language Act at Stormont and we will treat their entire wish list as no more than toilet paper. They better get used to it.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Politics show for Northern Ireland on Sunday, however, Peter Robinson told presenter Mark Carruthers to “lighten up”. Defending Campbell he responded:

“This is getting tedious. If all that you have out of the whole of the party conference is to question me about that, then there are better things I could be doing with my time.

“Lighten up will you? It’s a party conference and it was a bit of comedy in the middle of it, let’s get on with some real business.”

Responding to the remarks, Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd accused Campbell of “dismissing the hopes, aspirations and negotiating rights of almost one half” of those taking part in ongoing talks to resolve issues concerning the past, parades and the flying of flags. He continued:

“The insult directed by Gregory Campbell at the Irish language community from the DUP conference is appalling.

“He was clearly sticking two fingers up to the Irish language community and to authority of the Assembly which sanctioned him for his unacceptable behaviour in the chamber.”

“Peter Robinson”, Down said, “needs to show some leadership and demonstrate to Irish speakers, nationalist and republicans that this contemptible behaviour is unacceptable in the 21st century”.

Meanwhile, with the electrical landscape as close as it is Peter Robinson used his speech to speak of the opportunities that next year’s General Election could present for unionism. He explained:

“We are not seeking to be part of any government coalition, but, with an open mind, we are willing to sustain, in office, a government that offers policies and programmes that are in the best interests of Northern Ireland in particular, and the United Kingdom as a whole.”

In May, it was reported that David Cameron had hosted a reception for DUP MPs at Downing Street in what was interpret as an attempt to woo them with the prospect of a hung parliament in mind.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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