Belfast Telegraph

Row over Gregory Campbell hunger striker remarks on social media

By Claire Williamson

The DUP's Gregory Campbell has sparked a row over comments he made on social media just hours after Northern Ireland's fifth Assembly was officially declared.

The East Londonderry MP, who stood down from the Assembly earlier this year, made a remark on Saturday night on Facebook about former hunger striker Raymond McCartney.

It came after Mr McCartney was re-elected as a Sinn Fein MLA in the Foyle constituency.

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Sinn Fein have called on Mr Campbell to withdraw the comments.

Speaking to the BBC, newly elected DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, said it was a "joke".

He said: "It's a lot of contrived anger. It was a throwaway joke remark by Gregory.

"There are people with a republican background that have done a lot worse to Gregory Campbell down through the years including attempts to murder him and his family.

"I think Gregory Campbell is a valued member of our party."

Meanwhile Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd branded Mr Campbell a "fool".

He said: "Gregory Campbell is a fool. He's away now to Westminster to retire and I wish him well staying over there out of the road.

"I don't think Gregory Campbell represents the vast majority of the DUP. I think the man is a loose canon within the DUP."

Speaking on the same programme the deputy leader of the Alliance Party Naomi Long said that Mr Campbell's social media account should be taken over.

She said: "I genuinely think it is time that Gregory stopped trying to be funny because it falls flat on every occasion.  It's insulting to the electorate, insulting to the people he attacks.

"It isn't amusing, it's childish and pathetic and frankly someone should take over his social media account and I would give the same advice to a lot of other politicians including Gerry Adams over the last while.

"Somebody needs to manage their accounts."

It's not the first time Mr Campbell has caused controversy with his remarks. In November 2014 he was barred from addressing the Northern Ireland Assembly after he did not apologise for mocking the Irish language in a question issued to Sinn Fein culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin.

Mr Campbell began his query saying "Curry my yoghurt, can coca coalyer", a parody of the Irish sentence "Go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" which means "thank you, Speaker" in English.

In March 2015 he was barred again after being accused of "schoolboy behaviour" towards a Sinn Fein member when he "yawned loudly" twice.

The DUP have been contacted for a response.

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