Belfast Telegraph

Gregory Campbell Irish language furore: Going on the offensive in a deliberate destabilisation strategy

By Alex Kane

It's worth remembering that in September 2007 Gregory Campbell had another go at mangling the Irish language: "Were I a satirist, I might begin my question to the minister with the words: 'Cora my Yogi Bear, a can coca colya."

That he set it up by using 'satirist' and happened to be addressing Culture Minister Edwin Poots meant that the whole thing slipped through the net.

Yet the fact that he deployed something similar seven years later, didn't set it up, and was speaking to a Sinn Fein Culture Minister suggests that, this time, he was seeking to offend.

The other thing to bear in mind about the "curry my yoghurt" and "toilet paper" comments during his conference speech is that the overwhelming majority of unionists who have taken objection to them either don't vote or don't vote for the DUP. In other words, it's not going to do him much electoral damage with his personal and party vote.

Gregory Campbell knows exactly what he's doing, and so do the DUP's Press office.

He is regarded as a very safe pair of hands, which is why he pops up on the Nolan Show almost every day across a range of issues.

He's not a maverick or an unguided missile and, to the best of my knowledge, neither Peter Robinson nor the Press office has ever tried to rein him in, let alone gag him.

The text of the conference speech was circulated by the Press office an hour before he made it; and it is canny enough to know the attention it would draw and the reaction it would provoke. And that's why there'll be no apology or drawing back.

If this is deliberate, then what's the point of it? Is it really just as brutally cynical as the DUP winding up nationalism/republicanism in the run-up to next May's general election and trying to put itself to the right of those 100,000 voters who opted for the TUV and Ukip at the Euro election? Or is there something else at stake?

Sinn Fein and the DUP are the key players in the latest talks process, a process that has an enormous and very slow moving agenda - parts of which the DUP would be happy enough to leave unresolved before the general election and the 2016 Assembly poll (although that may come much sooner).

Being told that its "wish list" is regarded as "toilet paper" is annoying the hell out of Sinn Fein, one of whose senior figures has suggested that the talks process itself is now in jeopardy.

Is that what the DUP wants? Is that what this whole pantomime is all about?

While no one in the DUP has taken issue with Campbell, it is interesting that Kyle Paisley has condemned him, saying: "Campbell has no care for the public face of unionism, nor do those who back him." Pretty strong words from the son of the DUP's founder and former leader.

There is no indication that Peter Robinson plans to pour apologetic oil on troubled waters, which further suggests this is part of a wider strategy to destabilise both the political and the talks process.

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