N. Ireland Politics

Peter Robinson defends Gregory Campbell DUP conference remarks

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Media captionGregory Campbell made reference to the 'curry my yoghurt' row

DUP leader Peter Robinson has defended remarks made by party colleague Gregory Campbell at Saturday's DUP conference.

Mr Campbell told delegates the DUP would treat Sinn Fein's "entire wish list" as no more than toilet paper.

He said that included calls for an Irish language act.

He also referred to comments he made in the assembly earlier in the month which nationalists said were disrespectful to the Irish language.

'Comedy'

However, Peter Robinson told Mark Carruthers on the BBC's Sunday Politics that people had over-reacted to Mr Campbell's remarks.

"This is getting tedious," Mr Robinson said.

"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."

Earlier this month, Mr Campbell began an address to the assembly with: "Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer", in imitation of the Irish sentence "go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" which translates as "thank you, Speaker".

On Saturday, Mr Campbell started his speech at the conference by saying it was always good to start the day with a healthy breakfast.

He then brought out a tub of yoghurt and said: "So I got some yoghurt today.

"And I'm looking forward to lunch, because they tell me there's some curry there."

'Appalling'

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd condemned both Mr Campbell and Mr Robinson.

"The insult directed by Gregory Campbell at the Irish language community from the DUP conference is appalling," he said.

"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.

"I'm dismayed that Peter Robinson, in echoes of his failure to deal promptly with abuse directed at the Muslim community earlier this year, has added insult to injury by suggesting Campbell's mockery was a piece of comedy."

The SDLP's Irish language spokesman Dominic Bradley said: "Mr Campbell may think that he is targeting Sinn Féin with these slurs, but the Irish language community is much wider and deeper than the membership of any one political party."

Mr Bradley said Mr Campbell's remarks were "beneath contempt and reflect more on his own narrow-minded mentality and his unwillingness to move forward".

He added: "Peter Robinson's attempt to trivialise these remarks clearly shows the tensions within the DUP. It remains to be seen if Mr Robinson has the remaining leadership clout to face them down."

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