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Gregory Campbell barred from speaking at Stormont over 'schoolboy behaviour'

By Noel McAdam

A senior DUP figure has been banned from speaking at Stormont after yawning as a Sinn Fein MLA spoke in Irish.

Gregory Campbell was accused of "schoolboy behaviour" in a ruling by Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin, who also said Mr Campbell had been "blatantly disrespectful".

But the two then clashed further leading to the Speaker's two-day 'gag' on the east Londonderry politician.

During Question Time in the Assembly last week, Mr Campbell yawned loudly while Sinn Fein's Catriona Ruane was speaking in Irish.

The latest spat came almost five months after Mr Campbell remarked "Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer", a mockery of the Irish sentence "go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" which translates as "thank you, Speaker".

An unrepentant Mr Campbell was at that stage gagged for a day, and then repeated his remarks at his party's annual conference.

The ban had little impact as Mr Campbell was not due to be at Stormont for the period of the ban anyway.

Yesterday, following last week's yawn, Mr McLaughlin added: "Such schoolboy behaviour falls well short of how business should be conducted in a mature, elected legislature.

"Having reviewed the official report and video footage, it is clear to me that Mr Campbell's behaviour was blatantly disrespectful and contrary to the standards of courtesy, good temper and moderation that are expected in debate in the House.

"The member is a senior and experienced parliamentarian in this Chamber and in Westminster and knows full well that he has to respect the rules of the House."

Mr Campbell said "on a point of order" and the Speaker said: "Unless you awish to make an apology, I will move on."

Urged repeatedly not to challenge the authority of the chair, Mr Campbell asked: "Is it appropriate that a member of a party that seeks to excuse punishment beatings, that seeks to ensure that Sinn Fein escapes and does not acknowledge its part in what it has done over the course of many years could spend time going to the Speaker's office to complain about someone yawning?"

Mr McLaughlin replied: "The member has continued to be disrespectful and discourteous and his conduct is clearly in breach of standing orders.

"I will, therefore, not be calling him to speak for the rest of today or tomorrow."

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