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DUP's unofficial Nolan Show envoy Gregory Campbell is never far away from controversy

By Noel McAdam

Not for the first time, Gregory Campbell has been accused of running off at the mouth.

But prank-prone though he may seem, the East Londonderry MP knew exactly what he was doing when he rose to mock Sinn Fein MLAs' continual use of the Irish language.

Question time is one of the most stage-managed sections of Stormont business and Mr Campbell often enjoys sparring with Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chiulin.

In part, perhaps - as only seasoned Assembly observers will remember- because the 61-year-old used to be Arts and Sports Minister himself. And he was also Regional Development Minister for a time.

Yet now he is best known for the fact that, along with his colleague Sammy Wilson, he is the only unionist who continues to keep a foot in both camps of the Assembly and Westminster.

Which is why he was in London yesterday when he was banned from speaking for a day in Belfast.

The veteran DUP politician is no stranger to courting controversy.

Certainly, his party considers him best able to tackle BBC chief jouster Stephen Nolan in the mornings - he is on the programme more than any other DUP figure.

He is the party's official spokesman on arts and media. But the question is the extent to which the big Rangers fan has a tendency to score own-goals.

It is only a few weeks since he criticised Derry-born Wigan and Republic of Ireland winger James McClean for revealing his favourite song is republican folk tune The Broad Black Brimmer.

McClean branded Campbell "sad, bitter and pathetic" and the group that sings the song, The Wolfe Tones, urged the MLA/MP to come to a concert - an invitation he is unlikely to take up.

As a cultural guardian, Campbell is ever-vigilant.

His barking over The Wolfe Tones echoed a spat six years ago when EA Sports apologised for mistakenly including A Soldier's Song as the anthem for Northern Ireland in its Fifa computer game.

He keeps a beady eye on the Irish Republic, also, once claiming Dublin's plan to put 20% VAT on sales of caravan holiday homes would cause job losses in Northern Ireland. But Gregory's gaffes, as some are percieved, often have a sharp political focus - a "joke with a jag", as he described his Assembly outburst.

Thus he railed against an episode of American cartoon The Simpsons which mentioned the IRA and attacked singer Dido for a song that referenced The Men Behind The Wire.

Campbell is DUP old-school. The BBC brought him to national prominence in the controversial documentary At The Edge Of The Union in 1985.

He first stood for Westminster in Foyle, twice coming second to former SDLP leader John Hume, before switching to East Londonderry, which he has represented since 2001.

He is among party supporters of the Caleb Foundation, which has called for creationism in science classes, and wants new laws based on a literal reading of the Bible.

Quotes

"Curry my yogurt, can coca coalyer. Would it not be more inclusive to have a minority languages strategy?" - Gregory Campbell, DUP

"If what you have just done is anything to go by, we do not need a strategy for pure ignorance." - Arts Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, SF

"Be in no doubt: if humour was in the Member's intention, it failed miserably."

- Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin

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