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By Patrick Van Roy On July 28th, 2020

Guest post Seimi

I wrote a week or two ago about the formation of a new GAA team in Belfast, East Belfast GAA. The ensuing comments were as positive here as they have been (for the most part) on social media. The team have, understandably, struggled so far, in a sport which many of the members had not even played before, three months ago. But they are hard working, determined, and lifted by every single point and goal they score.

As I said, the acceptance and welcome this new addition to the Belfast and NI sports scene has received has been a joy to see, and I wish them every success in the coming months and years. When I first wrote about them, I mentioned the coming together of cultures and of people.

Unfortunately, not all the citizens of these six counties share in these feelings of shared culture and togetherness. Not everyone is as tolerant as those who are embracing what has been to them, an alien culture up until now.

Gregory Campbell, DUP MP for East Derry, has decided that now is the time to resurrect an old joke from 2014, possibly in an attempt to appear relevant again, but definitely in order to reassure any doubters that he is still a small-minded, unrepentant bigot. 

From the linked article:

On Sunday, Mr Campbell referred to a programme on BBC Northern Ireland about a suspected German spy who had lived in Donegal during the Second World War, and was reported to have spoken Irish with a German accent. 




Mr. Campbell (from the Irish, Cam-béal – crooked mouth ie, someone who is untruthful) has since stated that this was a joke, and that only bigots do not see the funny side of it. He doesn’t seem to understand that the joke itself is bigotted, which is surprising, as he was barred from speaking at the NI Assembly for a day when he refused to apologise for it, the first time he made it, back in 2014 (covered here, by yours truly and by David Vance at the time).

The DUP have a long, long track record of making such comments about the Irish language, and to be fair, the comments themselves really don’t bother that many Gaeilgeoirs. What does annoy them though is the ongoing damage such an attitude does to the growth and development of the language. As long as elected politicians are free to make such bigoted comments, many ordinary people will continue to believe them. In England, no MP would be allowed to get away with such comments about race, skin colour or creed, so why do NI Unionists get a bye-ball when they attack the indigenous language of Ireland?

62 Responses to “Tolerance?”

  1. haha Interestingly as you say Campbell comes from the gaelic language and means crooked mouth.

  2. Grego of course forgets that if his precious union wants to exist in the mid to long term he’ll have to sell it to young nationalists. Way to go Grego.

    It is their arrogance and triumphalism which will be their undoing.

    I heard a woman on Radio Ulster trying to equate the indigenous language of the island with Polish and Chinese. I wonder what the reaction would have been had Grego made a similar smartarse comment about those languages?

  3. Seems a bit of a tempest in a tea pot.

  4. Rehashing a not very funny when told first time six years ago joke is about as appetising as eating curried yoghurt !

  5. Mahons, were a Congressman to make a similar comment about say Spanish in the US?

  6. I live in a place where English is the official language, but the majority of the population also speaks Spanish. Where toleration comes in for us is when we cross paths where my Spanish is bad and your English is not good. It happens all the time here, but we seem to get along.

  7. I live in a place where English is the official language

    I stand to be corrected on this Charles but it’s my understanding that the US has neither an official language nor religion?

  8. Charles

    I always thought when people crossed paths in Texas, the person with the smallest gun had to move out of the way 🙂

  9. Paul – I imagine they do. I suppose it has more meaning among NI circles than outside.

  10. I watched a pretty cool show last night on the bridge crossing in Texas. Literally every border patrol agent was Hispanic-American.

  11. Paul, You’re right, my bad. Would it be fair to say that English is predominately used by the power structure, whereas Spanish is used by the working class?

  12. Paul – I imagine they do

    I also imagine if that were the case there’d be a bit of comment from the Latino community.

    Why would a politician want to mock an indigenous language?

  13. “Why would a politician want to mock an indigenous language?

    He wouldn’t, if he wanted indigenous votes. In NI, the DUP doesn’t. He’s playing to his crowd I guess.

    Here, I don’t think a politician would do that.

  14. I’d be of the opinion that English is the de facto working language of the States, Charles.

  15. Is Spanish indigenous here? Don’t tell the Native Americans, they’ll go on the warpath.
    I imagine the politician in question is not particularly known for his wit. Probably a dig on his part knowing that extra offense would be taken.

  16. Here, it is common for Spanish speakers to use both languages among themselves, sometimes switching languages mid sentence, effortlessly as though it was one language

  17. Si.

  18. Mahons, I am reminded by my Hispanic friends that El Paso and Spanish was here long before Englishmen were even in North America!

  19. Yes

    There were Spanish speaking communities here 200 years before the US was founded.

  20. Is Spanish indigenous here? Don’t tell the Native Americans, they’ll go on the warpath

    California, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado etc?

    And of course, Puerto Rico.

  21. Sorry strike Colorado.

  22. Paul, where you live, is there any tension between Basque and Spanish speakers?

  23. No problemo. I also thought indigenous meant of the native folks and Spanish came from Spain.

  24. Charles – yes indeed. Not sure that makes Spanish and indigenous language. I’ll ask Elizabeth Warren.

  25. There were Dutch speakers in New York (aka New Amsterdam), but I don’t think that makes Dutch an indigenous language.

  26. The curried yoghurt ‘joke’ comes from when he addressed the Speaker of the assembly, mocking the SF standard of thanking him in Irish before making their point. But instead of saying, “Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle,” or “Thank you, Mister Speaker,” he said “Curry my yoghurt, can coca coalyer!”

    The politician in question likes to think that he is a bit of a wit (he’s half right), but the point being made was not the ‘joke’ itself, but the fact that he and many of his colleagues within his party and on the Unionist ‘side’ in general, have been making ‘jokes’ like this for decades, and getting away with it. Of course he’s playing to his own side, but that still doesn’t make it right.
    He is also, for now, bound by the European Commission for Regional and Minority Languages – which his party signed up to – to be respectful towards the language and its development. His party also signed the Good Friday Agreement, which also says that signatories will treat the language and its development with respect.
    It’s a bit more than a ‘tempest in a tea pot.’ It’s not only very disrespectful, it’s also going against the spirit of an EU body and an international peace treaty.

    I suppose it has more meaning among NI circles than outside.

    Quite possibly, in much the same way that mediocre, right wing TV anchors mean a lot more in the States than they do outside of them, but it doesn’t stop us from having at least one post on it every week.

  27. Spanish was of course an import, one many times forced onto the locals. But an earlier one than English. An earlier layer.

    Some Indian language speakers do no look at the Spanish language / Spanish colonial legacy with any fondness.

  28. Begone you impudent colonials. None of you speak the proper queen’s English like what me and Pete do anyway. 😉

  29. Castillano (Spanish fron Castilla) is what’s spoken in Spain Mahons. Spanish is the Americas version.

    Yes and no Charles. In the the three 79 Constitution ‘Vascongada’ provinces it is officially bi lingual with Basque being the official first language and Spanish the second but more widely spoken. Here in Navarra, (the historic capital of ‘Euskal Herria’, the original seven Basque provinces, Spanish is the official language with Base recognised in Navarran Municipal & Government structures.

  30. Blimey Paul, that’s one big Paella pot of Iberian language mixtures 😉

  31. If we’re talking about the Iberian Peninsula Colm you’ll also have to throw Gallego, Catalan & Portuguese into the pot.

  32. they attack the indigenous language of Ireland?

    It would be reasonable to ask whether the indigenous language was spoken by the indigenous people? Are there indigenous people in Ireland?

  33. Look if he made a joke about finding Noah’s Ark I’d understand the angst.
    He seems like a jerk who repeats himself. Isn’t that the general take on him?

  34. He seems like a jerk who repeats himself. Isn’t that the general take on him?

    I think bigoted arsehole would be more appropriate but yes, point generally taken.

  35. Seimi, Thank you for that detailed explanation, mo chara. I see now why this “joke”, in the context of addressing the Speaker, is way out of bounds. I can think of no parallel in American politics of such official disrespect.

  36. Colm, I’ve always imagined you to have a Mickey Flanaghan accent:


  37. Look if he made a joke about finding Noah’s Ark I’d understand the angst.
    He seems like a jerk who repeats himself. Isn’t that the general take on him?

    As you’ve already made clear, you don’t really get why anyone would be annoyed by this. However, your message of ‘who cares?’ hasn’t reached Irish speakers in the North yet, as they are annoyed that he continues to be allowed to make this type of ‘joke’ either in the Assembly, in the Houses of Parliament or on social media. As an elected representative, he should be setting an example, not causing further division.
    And the general take isn’t that he’s a jerk who repeats himself: the general take is that he is a bigot, and a dangerous one, who once said that he would ‘be out on the streets, with the people,’ should the British withdraw from NI. When asked, ‘With arms?’ his reply was, ‘Yes, with arms.’


  38. Trump has of course used ethnic pronunciations disrespectfully. It is likely the same intellect.

  39. Bigots masquerading as philistines are common in the north.

  40. Trump has nothing to do with the point Seimi is making? Can we have one thread without Trump?

  41. My message was intended to be less who cares and more why give him the time of day. Has he made such a remark in the Assembly since 2014?

  42. Charles – just noting a similar failing. Wouldn’t want my friends in NI to feel their politicians had a monopoly on the thing.

  43. Paul

    Not too far off although I speak a bit posher than him. No idea why as for example my brother has a very strong cockney accent which I don’t have. Also as a schoolchild we had two brothers as friends both London born of Irish parents just a year apart brought up exactly the same. One developed a typical South London accent the other brother spoke with a strong Galway accent although he never lived on Ireland.

  44. Colm

    That happens

    Danny Murtaugh was a well liked and very successful manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team.

    Grew up in Chester PA among lots of Irish

    Had an Irish accent all his days.

    As far as I know he never visited Ireland


  45. My message was intended to be less who cares and more why give him the time of day. Has he made such a remark in the Assembly since 2014?

    Fair enough, Mahons.
    He hasn’t made such comments in the Assembly since, first of all because he was banned from speaking for a day, and secondly – in a way it’s connected to the first point – he is no longer an MLA. He was one of those who was ‘double-jobbing’ ie he was an MLA and MP in Westminster at the same time, and had to stand down from one salary job in 2016. He was, in fact, the last DUP member to stop double-jobbing.
    He wouldn’t be allowed to get away with stuff like that at Westminster, which is another reason why Irish speakers are so annoyed at him again.
    Slightly O/T – I’ve met Gregory a couple of times, when he was Culture Minister here, and we were lobbying for the language. Very friendly on the surface, but nasty eyes, and one of those people with a horrible, limp, weak handshake! A former SF MLA also has the same type of handshake. Yuck!

  46. And one of those people with a horrible, limp, weak handshake!

    A particularly detestable trait for me.

  47. A particularly detestable trait for me.

    It’s like shaking hands with a wet mop!

  48. hey sorry for the delay Kurt/Seimi/Paul…… things were a little hectic here. (nothing Major)

    Hope the 3 of you don’t mind being all put on the same day…..

  49. No worries at all – a bit of competition is always good 🙂

    Thanks for posting 🙂

  50. Campbell fancies himself a wit and tries to get a reaction. You fulfilled his desire. If what he says bothers you, he has been successful in his eyes. It is his game and you fell for it as is proved by your post.

  51. New Yorker
    Please don’t labour under the misapprehension that I lose any sort of sleep over the words he used. What bothers me is the fact that he can get away with saying or writing derogatory comments like this about the Irish language. If this happened in England, he would not be allowed to get away with it. It would be all over the papers there. But because it’s NI, and because it’s the Irish language, it’s a ‘tempest in a tea pot,’ or ‘a game’ that an Irish speaker ‘fell for.’ I suggested in my post that it was an attempt by him to appear ‘relevant’ in some way and I do agree that he was playing to his own crowd, but the bottom line is – when he does things like this, it makes things worse.
    He is perpetuating bigoted stereotypes, then dismissing criticism as bigoted misunderstanding of his joke.
    If you can’t see that, then I would suggest that you don’t understand the situation fully.
    And before this goes any further – I have no real desire to conduct another drawn-out slagging match with you, where we descend into pedantic hell.
    You think that I have fallen in to Campbell’s trap. I know that I haven’t. Let’s leave it at that.

  52. thanks for posting pat
    everyone agreed it was the real Ark and we move on 😉
    might do something on mitochondrial DNA and the spread of language/people’s in ancient times aka the scattering after the Tower of Babel collapse/judgement

    The biblical book of Genesis reports that rather than heed God’s command to “spread out over the earth” (Genesis 9:7), humans — who all spoke a single language at the time — settled in the Ancient Near Eastern land of Shinar and attempted to build “a tower with its top in the sky” (Genesis 11:4). God frustrated their plans, caused the builders to begin speaking various languages and “scattered them throughout the earth” (Genesis 11:8).

    “Based on genetic clocks that have been published even by evolutionists,” – “you can explain the origin of all people groups genetically within the last few thousand years.”

  53. //The politician in question likes to think that he is a bit of a wit (he’s half right)//

    Clever, Seimi!

  54. nit-wit

  55. A former SF MLA also has the same type of handshake. Yuck!


  56. Paul

    You know him. He is also a businessman 🙂

  57. Ah, the boul Marty?

    I just knew you weren’t talking abut Sue Ramsey!!

  58. Lol – Sue would break your arm! 😂

  59. Aah the good old days, when people could shake hands, limp firm or medium 🙂

  60. Worrying news

    Greetings from North Donegal.

  61. Oops. Incorrect strikethrough and wrong sentence hyperlinked.

  62. This what you’re looking for Seimi?


    Yes, worrying indeed.