Gregory Campbell's childishness over 'curry my yoghurt' comments no joke
Politics is an area of public life where verbal jousting is commonplace, and this kind of knockabout is regarded as part and parcel of politics. However, there are certain comments which are not normally part of Parliamentary or political language, and Gregory Campbell of the DUP has once again descended below the level expected of an experienced politician.
Not long ago he caused offence when he mocked the Irish language during a Stormont debate and uttered the phrase "curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer".
At the weekend he caused yet more offence when, at his party conference, he said that the DUP would treat Sinn Fein's "entire wish list", which calls for an Irish Language Act, as "toilet paper". This was particularly disrespectful to a representative of a body promoting the Irish language, who had been invited to address the DUP conference on the previous day.
Micheal O Duibh said that Gregory Campbell's comments made him feel that it was "one step forward and two steps back".
Politicians traditionally play to their grassroots support, but Mr Campbell's remarks were unnecessary and were almost certain to cause offence.
They were not the comments expected of a seasoned campaigner who seems to delight in goading people with remarks which are much less funny than even schoolboy humour.
The First Minister Peter Robinson also shows a lack of sensitivity in trying to play down his colleague's remarks as "a bit of comedy", and the general interchange illustrates yet again the lack of respect from politicians who ought to know better. Mr Robinson has suggested that political commentators ought to ignore such matters and get on "with some real business". That is precisely the point at issue.
It was Gregory Campbell with his lame attempt at humour who caused offence, and in doing so he diverted the spotlight from the major issues at the party conference.
Many politicians still fail to realise how tired the public has become of the Stormont verbal exchanges and the in-jokes which indicate that too many of our public representatives live in a political bubble and are isolated from reality.
Politics is a serious business, and particularly so in Northern Ireland where the very future of Stormont appears to be threatened by mutual recriminations.
We could well do without the divisive observations of Gregory Campbell at this difficult time.