Belfast Telegraph

Campbell rapped for language parody

A senior MLA has been reprimanded for allegedly undermining the dignity of Northern Ireland's Assembly with a "humourless" parody of the Irish language.

The DUP's Gregory Campbell was barred from addressing Assembly for the day after failing to apologise for controversial remarks made yesterday.

However, the censorship has had little impact as Mr Campbell, who is also an MP, is at Westminster today.

A row erupted when the East Londonderry MLA began an address to the chamber with: "Curry my yogurt can coca coal yer."

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

The Assembly Speaker, Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin, said Mr Campbell's conduct "fell well short" of the expected standards for MLAs.

Mr McLaughlin said: "The spirit of mockery was blatant and reflects badly on this house.

"The deputy speakers and I are not prepared to allow such a breach of standards to pass without consequence.

"I am in no doubt, if humour was in the member's intention, it failed miserably."

He added: "Had this been a parody of any other language, there would rightly have been objections from a number of quarters.

"In practice and in the Hansard report his comments came across as ridiculous and clearly undermined the dignity of this House."

Yesterday, Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said the DUP MLA had shown "pure ignorance" and refused to answer the question which followed the remarks.

Ms Ni Chuilin made an official complaint to the Northern Ireland Assembly's speaker's office and Sinn Fein also referred Mr Campbell's remarks to Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission claiming they bordered on being racist.

Mr Campbell said he had raised the issue because he believed Sinn Fein used the Irish language for political reasons.

He has also refused to apologise.

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