Campbell: No apology on remarks but “If they wanted me to repeat it, they went the right way about it”

He’s been in the headlines recently over his comments about the Irish Language during question time in the Assembly and normally it is Sammy Wilson who grabs the headlines at a DUP conference for an interesting speech, but this year Gregory Campbell unbowed continued with his remarks and brought some visual aids to demonstrate his point.

Following his comments I was keen to catch up with the DUP MP to just find out, why he made his remarks? Why he felt this way about the Irish Language and on another issue, what way he would see the DUP going in a hung parliament?

I began by asking him about the conference, what did he make of the atmosphere?

Campbell was honest in his reply saying the that the mood was “very bullish” and that like any pre-election conference the party was anxious to get stuck into the election campaign, but they were just waiting for the starting gun to be fired.

As he explained his combative mood to me, I asked him about what was going through his mind on that day in the Assembly when he made those remarks to the Culture Minister,Carál Ní Chuilín?

Campbell told me that to properly understand the context of his remarks it is important to remember that the pre-text to all this is that when Sinn Fein MLA’s rise to speak and make remarks such as Ceann Comhairle (Speaker) that they do this in the knowledge that other members of the assembly don’t understand what they are saying and he had simply had enough and wanted to do something to draw attention to this “ludicrous nonsense.”

For Campbell, he argues that in the chamber he doesn’t stand up and say things like Mr. Speaker, no surrender, every time he asks a question and he used the phraseology of “curry my yoghurt” because to him that’s what it sounds like when these phrases are uttered from the opposite benches.

So, having said that did he think the Sinn Fein reaction was over the top?

Unsurprisingly Campbell does believe that the Minister refusing to answer his question and the subsequent complaint to the Speaker was over the top. He told me that the way he knows this is that “hundreds of Unionists and Nationalists” have spoken to him about this issue and have told him that Sinn Fein “need to get a life.”

I put it to him was his speech at the conference not a bit of over the top?

No, again I say it’s more about the overreaction rather than the event…I think they don’t understand Gregory Campbell. I don’t know why a Minister, a Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein generally would’ve thought with me and my track record that I was seriously going to apologise…do they know absolutely nothing? There’s no way. If they wanted me to repeat it, they went the right way about it.

But, what about the wider Irish speaking community who could have been offended by those remarks?
Campbell was blunt that if they took the remarks seriously or as a full attack on the language then they would have been annoyed, but he argues that it wasn’t that “so they shouldn’t have been annoyed.”

We pressed onto the other critical issue of next year’s Westminster election and just who would the DUP support in a hung parliament?

Gregory told me that in his view the DUP should not do what the UUP did in 2010 and formally align with any party during the election. Campbell argues that following the next election there will be two main blocs in parliament, Labour and the Conservatives and that it would be “madness” and “stupidity” to cut yourself off from one of those main parties.

He told me that the DUP strategy in a hung parliament will be very simple; one of the main parties will ask what can the DUP do for them? And their response will be what can you do for Northern Ireland? The DUP will ultimately seek to get the best deal and will support whatever party offers it to them, they are not dogmatic on the issue at all and if it turns into a Dutch auction for Northern Ireland votes, then so much the better.

Full audio here




David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

  • Morpheus

    A sorry excuse for a man…best ignored

  • Niall Chapman

    The tactics regarding Westminster party alignment seem fairly sound and intelligent, so I doubt it was his idea, unless he just looks like a buffoon on NI issues because he’s blinded by sectarianism or trying to win the LCD unionist vote

  • Ernekid

    I find it amazing and slightly baffling that this man’s politics can exist in 2014. We live in an era where science, technology and modern communications have changed the world forever. We can achieve the fantastical like landing a robot on a comet millions of miles away, we are more connected than ever allowing me to rant from the comfort of my own bedroom. The world has changed remarkably in a short period of time, all this has seemed to pass Mr Gregory Campbell by.

    Mr Campbell is using the same rhetoric and has the same mindset of a member of Basil Brooke’s cabinet, The problem is that it’s 2014, not 1954. Gregory is genuinely a man out of time, It must feel remarkable living 60 years out of sync with the rest of the modern world.

    I really wonder if there is a hung Parliament next year, will either Ed Miliband or David Cameron want to stoop as low as negotiating with the likes of Gregory Campbell? The British Parties look down at the members of the DUP not with contempt or disgust but regard them as mere curiosities.They must wonder over drinks in the Bars of Westminster how this poor benighted land across the water is still able to produce and elect people like Mr Campbell .

    Mr Campbell shouldn’t be hated or scorned but rather pitied. He’s a man out of time, The world has left him behind and he has to retreat further and further into a vile pit of hatred in order to cope with this.

    It’s sad.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Ernekid, I’m no fan of that chancer Churchill, as anyone reading my postings for a few years may just have gathered, but I remember the quote:

    “whole empires had disappeared in that great cataclysm… the boundaries of many countries have been re-drawn… But when the floodwaters have subsided and we look across the landscape, we see again in all their glory, the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone. Only the integrity of their quarrel remains undiminished…”

    This seems rather significant at this point. And just as Churchill would have supped with any devil to ensure his place in history alongside the “Great Marlborough” who humbled the mightiest king of his age, so Ed or David will jump to accomodate these revenants in order to grab a little more time controlling the slice sizes of the moldy cheesecake of power!

    And much as I feel distaste for the late Sir Basil (who once, when I was tiny, ruffled my hair), at least the poor man would never have dismissed the Irish language in this way, and certainly not using the rhetoric of Dangermouse!

  • Turgon

    I think SeaanUiNeill has a very fair point. However, even more so, Ernekid may well be correct though not with exactly the outcome he thinks. Labour and Tory leaders probably do look at the likes of Campbell’s comments with bafflement. It it that sort of looking in disbelieving and disapproving wonder which has driven UKIP’s rise in much of England (especially along the east coast). It is the sort of mentality which saw Ms. Thornberry tweet a picture of England flags and end her shadow ministerial career. It is (as the World This Weekend on Radio 4 has just said) the appearance of being on an anthropological field trip and finding odd, quaint foreign cultures.

    Whatever the many failings of both the DUP and Sinn Fein they are more in touch with their base than the Tories or Labour seem to be at the moment.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I think that any British political party – apart from UKIP and BNP – which gets into bed with the DUP will be fast-tracking to the bottom of the barrel. Gregory Campbell’s contemptuous attitude to the ‘wider Irish language community’ shows his party up as bigots with a poor grasp on cultural diversity or civilised values. In fact his attitude is anti-British in his disdain for cultural diversity and tolerance of others – as Linda Ervine points out in a facebook post:

    Welsh Language Act – 1993
    Scottish Language Act – 2005
    Northern Ireland is part of the UK and like other parts of the UK is entitled to an Act to protect the Gaelic language of Ulster.

    In denying the Irish speakers of Northern Ireland a Language Act, Gregory Campbell is actually arguing that NI is less British than Wales or Scotland where the indigenous languages have statutory protection. This is not the case in NI, despite British Government promises at St Andrews. To describe a proposed Irish Language Act as ‘toilet paper’ is boorish and ill-mannered – but then again isn’t that what we should expect from Mr Campbell.
    Voters of Irish descent or indeed voters with any interest in diversity and tolerance in Britain should ask prospective candidates for election in the forthcoming election whether they would in any circumstances take support from the DUP to get into Government. If the answer is that question is ‘yes’, people of good conscience should deny that party their vote lest that in anyway give succour to the notion that intolerant bigots should be in a position of influence.

  • submariner

    Flegory is nothing more than a corner boy in a suit who oozes sectarian hatred from every fibre of his being. That said the most disturbing thing for me is the fact that the majority of Unionists continue to vote for these people.

  • Ernekid

    I’m pretty sure that the basis of the Tory support in the Shires of England would balk at the idea of a Conservative British government making a pact with the Troglodytic Unionists across the Irish Sea. The Tories have had a chequered history of playing the Orange Card and I don’t think they’d take the risk just look at hassle Major had in the 90s when the Ulster Unionists held the balance in Parliament. Also It’d wreck the Peace Process and I would annoy the Dublin government damaging carefully cultivated good Anglo-Irish relations.

    With the SNP likely to have a bloc of 30+ MPs and Farage leading a rabble of at least 5 Kippers from the back benches, Also there will be the inevitable wipeout of the Lib Dems. Politics will be interesting after next year

  • Turgon

    Republicans just do not do irony do they?

  • Fobhristi

    I don’t get it with the DUP, is the writing not on the wall with them that (as distasteful as it may be to say out loud) those from a Catholic background will be the majority inhabitants of the Stormont electorate in a relatively short period of time. Making a mockery of them, literally, surely isn’t a winning strategy. Its also curious that some Unionists seem so sensitive to the mockery of ‘ulster-scots’ yet are only to happy to sit in their seats in Stormont and giggle like a bunch of wee girls at the racist mutterings of Campbell. Its a mixture of monumental arrogance and stupidity that the DUP seem incapable of playing any long game. I have a ton of Unionist friends who are mortified by this man.

  • submariner

    I dont know Turgon perhaps you should ask one.

  • barnshee

    Brilliant coup- by Gregory-didnt think he had it in him – instead of being mocked for his “mono lingualism” -just look at the whinging he has stirred up

  • Fobhristi

    It may be whinging today and tomorrow, but it will be electoral results for nationalist parties in years to come.

  • chrisjones2

    “protect the Gaelic language of Ulster

    From what? Reality? The march of time? Globalisation?

    I want to respect it but the serious money needs to go into teaching our children to read and write in English Many of them can’t

  • chrisjones2

    I think that perhaps genetically many of them are colour blind for red

  • chrisjones2

    ,,,,if they can ever persuade all those Catholic voters to vote for a UI but on progress so far …………………..

  • chrisjones2

    Making a mockery of them,

    I love the way you coopt the whole Catholic comnmunity in the North to your cause./ No rqacial stereotying here then

  • Fobhristi

    hmmm clearly not educated on the matter then eh. Old Saxon and Old Norse predate the last widespread use of Irish as a first language by about a 1000 years, so your comparison is spurious at best. Up until as recent as 70 years ago, there were parts of the island, for example rural south armagh, where there was an eldery lady who spoke no english, only gaelic. In fact the mother of a friend of mine only learned to speak english when she was 5 in Co.Claire. So unfortunately for you its not as ‘dead’ as you would love it to be. For such a major part of a races’ linguistic heritage to be dismissed by Unionists shows just how shallow they are in their appreciation of genuine cultural heritage. By your logic the events of 1690 have as much relevance to the 21st century as Anglo-Dutch navy being defeated by the French in the Battle of Beachy Head. Clearly you would disagree that the events of over 300 hundred years ago have any relevance of modern society..clearly, why? because you are as biased as the day is long.

  • Fobhristi

    nice attempted rebuttal there mr jones, but yes I think Campbells apparent complete distain for everything irish would strike a nerve with…hmm…irish people.

  • Fobhristi

    Imagine a scenario where Nationalists form the majority but choose to stay a majority in a Northern Ireland, as seems to be the case. Unionists a perpetual minority ‘in their own country; with the threat of a UI vote forever hanging in the wind. As this is the most likely outcome in the near future it will be interesting to see if Mr Campbell as his cohorts so easily use racism for a bit of banter at work

  • Ernekid

    Why do you say that BMS? If you are going to call people pond scum at least back it up with something.

  • Morpheus


  • chrisjones2

    So why is it not racists banter to use Irish where it will offend / annoy but it is racist banter to make fun of it

  • chrisjones2

    ,,,, perhaps because he was then speaking to what he regards as ‘normal’ people of a different viewpoint and not a convicted terrorist.

    She may now be a Minister but she is still a convicted terrorist who was involved in attempting to kill people. I am sure that ‘curry my yoghurt’ was therefore a very upsetting experience for her

  • Niall Chapman

    99.9 percent of people in NI can read and write in English, and as I said on another post today bilingual children have higher cognitive ability and can learn other languages faster, some evidence is that I live in a city where many Brits and Irish struggle to learn the native language, whereas our mainland European counterparts who have spoken 2 laguages from an early age, learn much quicker (which vastly improves job Prospects-think NI economic benefit) but don’t take my word for it, TIME magazine that Republican rag has an article also:

  • Fobhristi

    Oh God are you serious? An elected representative speaks their ancestral language, to say courteous things no less (“thankyou Mr. Speaker”) and in your warped mind that in itself is an act of racism, but the person who then paraphrases what they’ve heard in a mocking speel is not racism?! Beginning a commentary in a language other than English is commonplace in the European Parliament for example, do the DUP cry racism there?! Bizzare mindset, absolutly bizzare.

  • sk

    Why are you defending a sectarian muppet like Gregory Campbell? Is this idiocy really the kind of thing the floats the average unionist boat?

  • Guest

    Also I might add that, when members speak in the assembly they are not simply talking to an individual in a private conversation, they are speaking effectively to their own electorate and the whole country, debates are indeed public debates i.e. its not all about the DUP.

  • Fobhristi

    Also I might add that, when members speak in the assembly they are not simply talking to an individual in a private conversation, they are speaking effectively to their own electorate and the whole country, debates are indeed public debates i.e. its not all about the DUP, there are other folks running the country besides them.

  • sk

    These are not long-winded soliloquies we are talking about here. Nobodies going into the Assembly and delivering the Iliad in Lepachaun.

    No, Flegory is taking issue with people saying “thank you” in Irish. A phrase that takes a second to utter, enrages him. He can’t sit still when he hears it. He needs to disprupt assembly business and bring yoghurts to party conferences because a Catholic is saying thank you in Irish.

    Flegory Campbell lies awake at night because someone said thank you. Take a second there, and contemplate how utterly, comprehensively batshit that is.

  • sk

    “Base” is the word alright.

  • sk

    It’s all fun and games until someone takes another flag down Barnshee

  • submariner

    Chris, Gregory and others in the DUP don’t have any problems talking to convicted terrorists as long as they are of the Loyalist variety, or perhaps you need a reminder of that parties long and well documented links to loyalist terrorists stretching from the present day to its formation as a political party.

  • JR

    I saw grerory speak in Rostrevor about 15 years ago (pre st Andrews), It was a debate at an event organized as part of the festival. He arrived in a car with Bairbre de brún, spoke very charmingly on stage to a mainly nationalist audience (refused to shake bairbres hand before or after) then left afterwards again sharing a car with bairbre having a laugh about something as they went out the gate.

    My point is that Gregory knows exactly who his target audience is and is a master at tailoring his sentiment to his electorate. This is a cheap and easy way to get some traction with an element within unionism and from looking at the comments above and many recent posts on social media he has struck the mark.

    His is now mining the rich vein he has found a bit further with a few props at the DUP conference and the fallacious comparison above, equating “Thank you mr speaker” in Irish with “No Surrender”.

    BTW. if anyone believes that after 16 years in Stormount Gregory doen’t understand the meaning of Go raibh maith agat a cheann comhairle, they are misguided.

  • barnshee

    “Imagine a scenario where Nationalists form the majority but choose to stay a majority in a Northern Ireland, as seems to be the case”

    They will hardly be nationalist then

  • Robin Keogh


  • Robin Keogh

    Oh My God, you have to be joking !?

  • ted hagan

    Just quit giving the clown Campbell publicity. You lower yourselves getting into an argument with this grade A warpo/

  • Fobhristi

    You’re confusing Nationalist with Republican. Irish Nationalism wasn’t particularly concerned with a United Ireland pre 1969, just civil rights within the UK. If someone opts for a UK doesn’t mean they aren’t Irish, or do you hold the same diabolical view as with the current dissident republicans?

  • John Gorman

    Poor Gregory. His argument was he just didnt understand the phrase. A phrase he himself admitted hearing 20 times a day every day for umpteen years. its not his fault it hasnt clicked by now. I think the grey cells have been fried after all his other argument was he doesnt say no surrender or sing will you go lassie go when he asks a question. I think Nolan pitied him a bit on radio the following day as he was alll over the place with his defense and yet Nolan seemed to let him off and not tear him to shreds as it would have been too easy. The cynic in me might just think he is in election mode as he would never normally behave like this and most certainly did not go to a beach boys concert with the sole purpose of tweeting ‘why isnt anyone offended by sloop john b’. Nothing to see here a great politician made a simple mistake and will certainly not be making any other controversial oubursts for at least 12 hours.

  • Fobhristi

    Tis indeed funnily enough, Cam Béal how ironic

  • barnshee

    “Irish Nationalism wasn’t particularly concerned with a United Ireland pre 1969,”

    Shakes his head
    Irish nationalists want to stay British Citizens?? surely not

  • streetlegal

    Once again we can detect the dark hand of Nigel Dodds behind the news dominating the DUP conference. Campbell was basically acting as Dodds’ ‘attack dog’. The message was populist and rabble rousing – but it was really directed at Peter Robinson. The Doddomites have had Robinson in a corner for a couple of years, but now they feel that the end game is at hand.

    The Dodds agenda is simply to ensure that Robinson is unable to conclude any further agreements with Sinn Fein. In return, he can remain leader for the Westminster election. That election will result in a further decline in the DUP vote – and at that point the way will be clear for Dodds to assume the leadership. The only question is whether the Stormont Executive can survive the failure of the current negotiations.

  • barnshee

    “His argument was he just didn`t understand the phrase. A phrase he himself admitted hearing 20 times a day every day for umpteen years.”

    And there was the key to both answering him and taking the piss out of him -along the following lines

    ” Apologies Gregory I am sorry you did not understand — I will translate it for you –translates— adds. We have some excellent tuition resources in Irish (and other languages) in Stormont library ..should you wish to use them . I will be glad to help you out personally with any other items you don`t understand.”

    PS the charge of ignorance –a lack of knowledge or information was an inappropriate response to Greg. He has already acknowledged his ignorance The word “ignorant” is misused by the “ignorant” in NI to mean rude or insulting and sadly appears to reflect the respondents “ignorance”


  • SeaanUiNeill

    I can only hope you are right! I have little faith in the Conservatives to even notice where their self interest lies, and with Cameron having Robinson “over to meet the kids”, I can see all the covert messages being exchanged.

    But with even “kippers” ( “you kip, I coulden’t possible comment”) as their own more (for the English!) user friendly version of the DUPers to hand we may just survive the final reversal of the “Orpington man” effect without the worst case scenario. And yes, it certainly would spoil a few decades of empathic exchange between Westminster and the Dáil, but when has that sort of thing stopped anyone?

  • Pint of Plain

    Gregory is clearly a misunderstood genius. Campbell is the social commentator for the flegged masses. He has reclaimed the word ‘yoghurt’ for the true sons of Ulster. Greg has taken the derogatory sleight inflicted on the culture of The Loyalist People of Ulster and deflected it towards the enemies of Ulster. This is sponges on sashes time. No longer will a bandsman have to avoid the yoghurt section of the shops, for the self-questioning this aroused. No longer will he have to send his ‘friend’ Mohammed down the shops to pick up the milk for him. Curried yoghurt is now his friend.

    On a less serious note, if Greg and Co succeeds in not surrendering to the a Irish Language Act, I hope the money ‘saved’ could be spent another way, for the benefit of people like our wee Greg. We could send Greg, his comrades who laughed, and similar-minded people on the hallowed soil of Ulster overseas for a short period (suggest a year, and better done at age 18-19, for future reference). This need not be to the US, Nova Scotia, Galicia or anywhere else that might reveal an appreciation of specifically Irish or Gaelic/Celtic culture. In fact, it shouldn’t, so not to curry the yoghurt. It should be to places quite alien to these backward bog people. I’d hope in foreign lands, after spending some time immersed with local people, they might gain an understanding, a quiet appreciation and a grounded respect for the ‘other’. Perhaps make lifelong friends, find love. Learn a generosity of spirit that seems to be absent from the milk of Ulster’s young. Learn to be a decent human being and not a grade A ersehole. Just a suggestion, tikka.

  • Pint of Plain

    Indeed, Barnshee.
    This misuse of the term Irish Nationalist is a annoying piece of feckwittery. An Irish Nationalist, like a British or Indian Nationalist wishes for a national state they can call their own. And many of these nationalists will wish to live within the borders of this state.

    If you think lobbying for Irish cultural issues with the UK is the fullest expression of Irish nationalism, you are a person much mistaken. That is merely regionalism. These people are not Irish nationalists and it would my enjoyment of life if they did not continue to horrendously confuse the two mutually exclusive positions.

  • Alan N/Ards

    It’s hard to believe that people actually vote for this man. Seriously childish comments. He needs to grow up!

  • Cynosure32

    thing that gets me, if this is only a bit of fun, then singing in a Jamaican accent is ok too:

    the bbc wouldn’t never have got an indignant levi roots (for example) on and then told him to lighten up. so why was it ok on nolan?