Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Gregory Campbell receives death threat following Irish language 'curry my yoghurt' comments

DUP MP says he will not be 'dictated to or deflected by terrorists'

By Adrian Rutherford

The DUP's Gregory Campbell has said he will not be 'dictated to or deflected by terrorists' after receiving a death threat following comments he made about the Irish language.

It comes after the DUP MP reiterated comments about the Irish language during his party's annual conference at the weekend.

Mr Campbell sparked fury last month when he mocked Irish during a Stormont debate.

He said: "Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer" - an apparent reference to the Irish phrase "go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" - thank you, Mr Speaker.

Police have now warned him of a threat to his life.

Responding, he said he would "not I will not be apologising for, or deviating from doing the right thing".

"This is not the first time that my life has been put under threat by republicans, and the challenge now is whether those who supported the threats in the past will condemn those who do it now. If they do, it is an indication that we have indeed moved on," he said.

"I will not be dictated to or deflected by terrorists. I took the opportunity today at Question Time, to reiterate my determination. Exposing those politicising the Irish language, as well as those making unrealistic political demands at the talks table is the right thing to do. How dare anyone try to suggest that it is something to be ashamed of."

A PSNI spokesman said: "We do not comment on specific threats however if we receive information that an individual may need to review their security we will take steps to inform them immediately."

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell jokingly referred to the jibe during a speech at the party conference on Saturday.

He told delegates it was always good to start the day with a healthy breakfast, before producing a tub of yoghurt and saying: "So I got some yoghurt today.

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

Irish language leader Micheal O Duibh - who addressed the DUP conference -  said he was dismayed by a fresh attack on the language from one of the party's MPs.

He said it felt like "one step forward, two steps back" after Gregory Campbell's remarks.

Mr Campbell also said the DUP would treat Sinn Fein's "entire wish list" - which includes calls for an Irish Language Act - like toilet paper. His latest comments have been condemned by Mr O Duibh, who took part in a panel discussion on the first day of the conference.

Mr O Duibh, who is chief executive of Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta, the body responsible for the promotion of Irish-medium schooling, said his remarks were disrespectful.

"It is very disappointing," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"When I was speaking at the party conference I was bringing a very positive message and I very much welcomed the invitation.

"It was a first for Irish-medium education and, most likely, a first for anybody from the Irish language background to be invited to a DUP conference.

"I gave a very warm céad míle fáilte to everybody and brought across a very strong, positive message that the Irish language and Irish-medium education is there for any parent who chooses it for their child, regardless of their social, cultural, religious or indeed linguistic background.

"To bring that positive message to the conference, and then the next day to hear the comments from Gregory Campbell felt very much like one step forward and two steps back."

Mr O Duibh said he felt let down by the latest remarks.

"In one way it was positive that I was invited to the conference," he added. "In another way it gives me an understanding of how Gregory feels or what his position is on the language.

"When you hear the party leader talk about a shared future, I wonder how he, as leader, can talk about that shared future when his party colleague feels it is okay to comment on the language in this way."

Mr Campbell appears to have made his yoghurt joke off the cuff, since it was not included in the embargoed copy of his speech released by the party press office on Saturday morning. Afterwards, DUP leader Peter Robinson defended the remarks as comedy.

However, Sinn Fein minister John O'Dowd condemned Mr Campbell and Mr Robinson.

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

 

What they said

Micheal O Duibh: "I gave a very warm céad míle fáilte to everybody and brought across a very strong, positive message that the Irish language and Irish medium education is there for any parent who chooses it for their child.

"To bring that positive message to the conference, and then the next day to hear the comments from Gregory Campbell felt very much like one step forward and two steps back."

Peter Robinson: "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.

"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."

Dominic Bradley, SDLP: "Mr Campbell may think that he is targeting Sinn Fein with these slurs 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 will be insulted and disappointed by Gregory Campbell's antics."

John O'Dowd, SF: "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."

 

Background

Dr Micheal O Duibh is the chief executive of Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta, the body responsible for the promotion of Irish-medium schooling. He was invited to take part in a panel discussion on the future of education on the first day of the DUP conference.

The organisation described it as "a significant and historical occasion".

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