DUP's Gregory Campbell 'ironic' Facebook post poking fun at shooting of IRA terrorists 'highly inappropriate' says Celtic
A DUP MP has refused to back down over a Facebook post branded crass and sectarian in which he appeared to joke about the SAS's shooting of three IRA terrorists in Gibraltar ahead of Celtic's Champions League tie - something the Scottish champions described as "highly inappropriate".
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell wrote in the message: "Someone told me that Celtic are due to play on the 12th, in Gibraltar.
"That info was OK but wasn't sure what he meant when he hoped that it wouldn't be like the last time Irish republican sympathisers went to Gibraltar and lost."
The message appeared to refer to the SAS's shootings of IRA members Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Daniel McCann in Gibraltar in 1988.
While the comments on Mr Campbell's Facebook page received some support, Celtic Football Club described them as "highly inappropriate and irresponsible and not worthy of any further comment".
SDLP east Londonderry MLA Gerry Mullan, meanwhile, said Mr Campbell's post could not be allowed to go unchallenged.
"Mr Campbell is notorious for his outlandish comments aimed at stirring up the nationalist community to the extent that it is now virtually impossible to take him seriously," he added.
"He is rapidly becoming a contender for the class clown of Northern Ireland politics.
"These latest comments, however, are simply so inaccurate, politically motivated and sectarian that they cannot go unchallenged.
"Not every Celtic fan is an IRA sympathiser, just as not every Rangers fan or Linfield fan are supporters of the UDA or the UVF.
"The fact is that Gregory revels in this type of controversy and in verbally attacking the nationalist community."
While this newspaper made numerous attempts to speak to Mr Campbell, he was not available.
But he told BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan show his post was ironic.
"Supporters of Glasgow Celtic, on many occasions, would revel in their Irish republicanism - not the majority - but some do," the MP claimed.
"You only have to look at the home games in Glasgow, bedecked in Irish tricolours.
"If you can't see the irony in those supporters having to go on the 12th day of July to the location where Irish republicans went to take the lives of innocent soldiers and were stopped in their tracks by the SAS, there's not much I can do to help."
Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty said Mr Campbell's comments did not reflect well on him or his party.
"I don't want to give credence to what Gregory Campbell has said because his crass, sectarian instincts have no value to anyone," he added.
"What he has said will appeal to the lowest comment denominator within loyalism, and doesn't do his own party any good or him as a politician."
When contacted, a DUP spokesman said: "This story would appear to mark the start of silly season.
"It has been fuelled nearly entirely by manufactured outrage, compounded by the fact that the newspaper that initiated the story made no attempt to contact either Mr Campbell or the party for any comment."