DUP MP and MLA Gregory Campbell has defended himself from nationalist outrage after he parodied the Irish language during an Assembly debate.
During a debate on Monday on the Irish language and Ulster Scots, principal deputy speaker Mitchel McLaughlin invited Mr Campbell to speak.
Mr Campbell replied: “Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer.” It is understood the East Derry representative was parodying the Irish phrase “go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle” which in English means “thank you, speaker”.
Mr Campbell then asked the culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin about a minority languages strategy.
However, the minister refused to answer him, saying that his behaviour was not “befitting a member of the Assembly”.
“If it’s anything to go by what you just did, we don’t need a strategy for pure ignorance,” said added.
Mr Campbell later described Sinn Fein’s use of the Irish language as “politically motivated tokenism”.
SDLP MLA and fluent Irish speaker Dominic Bradley described Mr Campbell’s comments as “disgraceful”.
Mr Bradley added: “The main point which Mr Campbell succeeded in making was that of his own narrow and bigoted attitude towards the Irish language.”
He added: “The SDLP will be raising the issue with the office of the Speaker and will be demanding that Mr Campbell comes before the house to apologise for his disrespectful remarks.”
Sinn Fein Irish language spokeswoman Rosie McCorley said the MLA’s “ignorance and disregard for anything Irish was once again on full display as he strung together a line of English in a way to mock the Irish language”.
She added: “If Gregory Campbell had have treated any other national language like this he would rightly have been accused of racism from all sides of this house.
“Unfortunately this is nothing new from the DUP who have blocked the development on an Irish language act, and whose representatives have a long history of insults to the Irish speaking community.”
But Mr Campbell hit back last night, saying Sinn Fein and some other nationalists “don’t want to see equality between Irish and other minority languages but seem determined to promote Irish as a purely political point”.
He said the minister should be promoting a range of minority languages, including Ulster Scots, Irish and Chinese and not just the “politically motivated tokenism” of how Sinn Fein use Irish in the Assembly chamber.
“Indeed, the fury unleashed when anyone would dare question that is proof of the political protection given to it by Sinn Fein,” he added.
“The sound and fury from those who use language as a political weapon doesn’t distract from the fact that they place their politically motivated language support above other vital public services which benefit everyone across our society.”