Northern Ireland

Gregory Campbell toilet paper remarks 'challenge talks integrity'

Media captionSinn Féin's John O'Dowd said Gregory Campbell's comments suggest the DUP is not serious about reaching compromise with other people

The integrity of current political talks in Northern Ireland has been called into question by a senior DUP man's remarks, Sinn Féin has said.

John O'Dowd was referring to Gregory Campbell's comment that the DUP would treat Sinn Fein's "entire wish list" as no more than toilet paper.

Mr O'Dowd said this suggested that current talks were "going nowhere".

It also suggested the DUP had been "peddling a myth they were involved in serious negotiation", he said.

Mr Campbell made his remarks at his party's annual conference on Saturday.

In his speech, he also dismissed calls for an Irish language act, saying his party would never agree it.

Mr O'Dowd told BBC Northern Ireland's Good Morning Ulster on Monday that the DUP leader needed to clarify his party's position.

"We need to hear from Peter Robinson," he said.

Media captionMartin McGuinness said Gregory Campbell's comments on the Irish language were a "disgrace" and "shameful"

"The leader of the DUP needs to come out front and centre as to the DUP position. Is his party treating the Sinn Féin negotiating position as toilet paper?

"He needs to come out and he needs to clarify that comment."

However, Mr Campbell defended his position.

"If Sinn Féin are realistic they need to start putting forward realistic propositions," he said.

Image caption Gregory Campbell also made reference to the 'curry my yoghurt' row at his party's conference

"We can't have Sinn Féin lecturing us about the need to recognise their culture when they are denying us our culture over parades and flags."

Speaking at assembly question time on Monday, Mr Robinson said a death threat made against Mr Campbell was "an attack on democracy itself".

Sinn Féin's Rosaleen McCorley said Mr Campbell had "insulted the Irish langauge and Irish speakers, including thousands of children going through Irish medium-education", and she called on the first minister to asked Mr Campbell to withdraw his comments

Mr Robinson said there was a need to differentiate between "lampooning those who are involved in a political campaign related to the Irish language and those who genuinely speak the Irish language".

He said Mr Campbell's "finger was being pointed at those who politically abuse the Irish language".

Stewart Dickson, Alliance, asked whether Mr Campbell's "toilet paper" remark meant the first minister had written off the talks process.

But the first leader said Mr Campbell had carefully referred to a "wish-list as opposed to the serious agenda items that we are discussing in the talks process".

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said: "Mr Campbell may think that he is targeting Sinn Féin but the Irish language community is much wider and deeper than the membership of any one political party.

"Irish language speakers, those who aspire to speak Irish and all right-minded people who respect the languages of others have been insulted and hurt and they deserve an apology."

On Sunday, Mr Robinson suggested that people had over-reacted to Mr Campbell's remarks.

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".

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