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DUP councillor Gavin Robinson with 'cúpla focal'* defends Gregory Campbell

By Rebecca Black

DUP councillor Gavin Robinson admits he knows several Irish phrases after surprising Sinn Fein by referring to Belfast's deputy Lord Mayor as "Leas Ard Mheara".

The former Lord Mayor's use of Gaelic comes after party colleague Gregory Campbell sparked outrage when he mocked the language in the Assembly by saying "Curry my yoghurt, can coca coalyer" - a jibe at MLAs who regularly begin their speeches in Irish with the phrase "Go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" ("Thank you, Mr speaker").

Mr Campbell repeated this mockery at the DUP's annual conference.

However, despite his different approach, Mr Robinson told the Belfast Telegraph he agreed with the point he said Mr Campbell was trying to make.

Mr Robinson's use of Irish during a meeting of Belfast City Council on Monday came during a light-hearted exchange about how he should address deputy Lord Mayor Maire Hendron, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon.

Mr Robinson said: "I'll say thank you deputy Lord Mayor in the Lord Mayor's chair... because there seems to be some confusion over how to refer to you this evening."

At this point Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh interjected suggesting "Leas Ard Mheara", which Mr Robinson repeated as he addressed the chair of the meeting - to the surprise from the benches opposite.

Mr Robinson said it was not the first Irish phrase he had used, however he was quick to defend Mr Campbell, saying the principle of what he did was right, claiming that some politicians use the Irish language for political objectives.

"When I was Lord Mayor, some people refused to use the 'Lord' when addressing me," he said.

"So, then I would have referred to that councillor using his English name, and he soon started calling me Lord Mayor."

Mr Robinson said he didn't have "any hang-ups about any phrases", but made the point that he felt certain people tried to politicise the Irish language.

"Some Sinn Fein members are Irish speakers and some just have a couple of phrases, that does a disservice," he said, adding that he is opposed to an Irish Language Act using public money to fund what he termed as a "hobby".

Meanwhile, Irish language groups visited Stormont yesterday.

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said the groups included both unionists and nationalists, who were equally passionate about the language.

"Whilst it is right and proper that Gregory Campbell apologises for his remarks against the Irish language, it's much more important to continue to highlight the work of groups such as Pobal and Turas and many more," he said.

"A language is not owned by any section of the community."

  • 'Cúpla focal 'means 'a few words' in Irish

Story so far

DUP MP Gregory Campbell incurred the ire of nationalists and Irish speakers last month when he began a speech in the Assembly by saying "Curry my yoghurt, can coca coalyer."

This was a mockery of MLAs who use the phrase "Go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" at the start of their speeches.

Mr Campbell mocked the Irish language again during a speech at the annual DUP conference.

First Minister Peter Robinson defended Mr Campbell's actions, saying he had a "dry sense of humour".

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