Northern Ireland

'Curry my yoghurt': Gregory Campbell, DUP, barred from speaking for day

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Media captionGregory Campbell, when invited to speak, said "curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer"

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has been barred from addressing the Northern Ireland Assembly for a day for failing to apologise for an Irish language parody.

A row developed on Monday, after he began his address to the assembly with: "Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer".

The Irish sentence "go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" translates as "thank you, Speaker" and is used by nationalist MLAs in the chamber.

The Speaker said his conduct fell "well short of standards expected from MLAs".

However, as Mr Campbell is currently at Westminster, the ruling has limited impact.

'Spirit of mockery'

Mr Campbell said he would not apologise for his words during the Irish language debate at Stormont on Monday.

Censuring Mr Campbell on Tuesday, Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin told the assembly: "The spirit of mockery was blatant and reflects badly upon this House and the deputy Speakers.

"I am not prepared to allow such a breach of standards to pass without consequence.

"Be in no doubt, if humour was in the Member's intention, it failed miserably."

The Sinn Féin assembly member added: "Had this been a parody of any other language, there would rightly have been objections from many quarters."

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Media captionMitchel McLaughlin said that if it was Mr Campbell's intent to create humour, then it "failed miserably"

Culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín of Sinn Féin said on Monday that Mr Campbell had shown "pure ignorance".

She made an official complaint to the Northern Ireland Assembly's speaker's office.

Sinn Féin has also referred Mr Campbell's remarks to Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission.

'Absurd and ludicrous'

However, Mr Campbell told BBC Radio Ulster on Tuesday: "I have nothing to apologise for and I won't be apologising."

He said comments made against him were "absurd and ludicrous" and he would continue to act as he had done, so long as Sinn Féin persisted with using Irish as they did in the assembly.

He told the Nolan Show that Sinn Féin began all their contributions to the assembly with Irish for what, he said, were purely political reasons.

"Why do they feel on every occasion, on every topic, that they have to start in Irish. Why?" he asked.

"That's why I did what I did."

Most people in Northern Ireland did not understand the Irish language and had no particular interest in it, he said.

Mr Campbell said that his words "concentrated a few minds as to how ludicrous are these people who insist on doing this all the time".

"I am very fond of Ulster Scots music, but if I started every question with a few words of Will ye go lassie go?, they'd say: 'Catch yourself on'," he said.

"My tolerance gets stretched beyond any credibility when I hear Irish ad nauseam on hundreds of occasions for no purpose other than a political one," Mr Campbell said.

Image caption Linda Ervine said the language act, agreed as part of the Good Friday Agreement, had never been brought into play

"I exposed the fallacy and the nonsense of people who insist on using Irish to begin every single contribution, no matter what the topic is, when most people don't understand what they're saying."

Linda Ervine, an Irish language development officer in east Belfast, said she was "surprised and disappointed to hear such idiocy coming from Stormont".

"Unfortunately, the language act that was agreed as part of the Good Friday Agreement has never been brought into play so maybe that's why people feel that they have to push it in an official way," she said.

"I'm not saying that what Sinn Féin is doing is the correct way of using the language, but they're entitled to do that. It's one sentence and it's really Gregory's overreaction."

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