Gregory Campbell has backed DUP leader Arlene Foster’s outreach work with the Irish language community, but says it does not indicate a softening of the party’s stance towards the introduction of an Irish Language Act.
he East Londonderry MP said Mrs Foster’s visit to Our Lady’s Grammar School in Newry on Wednesday, during which she spoke Irish, followed by the visit by a delegation from Conradh na Gaeilge to Stormont on Thursday, showed that the party “supported the Irish language, but not an Irish Language Act”.
“If those who are demanding an Irish Language Act require the support of the DUP I can definitively say that they won’t get it,” he stated.
“They will get support for the Irish language, but not an Act.
“I, Arlene and others have engaged on many occasions with people who use and speak Irish and they don’t need an Irish Language Act to do this.”
Mr Campbell, who failed to apologise for parodying the Irish language using the words “curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer” in 2014, also said that the outreach efforts by unionists were not being matched by republicans.
Mr Campbell said that while he hadn’t yet been invited to visit any Irish medium schools or Irish language groups, he “would consider it” if an invitation was made.
“There is a complete disparity between the leadership of unionism in reaching out and republicanism in not reaching out,” he stated.
“Arlene Foster is prepared to meet with Irish language groups, there is a log jam at Stormont and the leader of Unionism is doing this.
“What are Gerry Adams and Michelle O’Neill doing, particularly in the week when Michelle O’Neill is going to the Loughgall commemoration?
“Gerry Adams said things about ‘breaking the b*******’, what are they doing now?
“There is a disparity which exists between the two - one side engaging in outreach work and the other side going back to the past. They need to look at what is causing the massive gulf of suspicion and anger about them — is it the IRA past, the lack of respect for our culture and Britishness — they need to examine all of this, just as we are looking at the nationalist community.”
Earlier, TUV leader Jim Allister accused the DUP of “genuflecting to the Irish Language brigade”.
Mr Allister said the DUP was “preparing to pay Sinn Fein’s price for the return to office”.
The DUP said Mrs Foster is engaged in a listening exercise.