Campbell stands over joke linking Celtic and IRA men

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said that he will not be apologising for the joke
DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said that he will not be apologising for the joke

Gregory Campbell has firmly stood over a joke which linked dead IRA men, Gibraltar and Celtic Football Club.

The outspoken DUP MP on Monday made very clear that he would neither be retracting nor apologising for the joke, which appeared on his Facebook page on Saturday.

The East Londonderry MP wrote: “Someone told me that Celtic are due to play on the 12th, in Gibraltar. That info was ok but wasn’t sure what he meant when he hoped that it wouldn’t be like the last time Irish Republican sympathisers went to Gibraltar and lost.”

Scottish newspaper The Herald reported that Celtic FC described the comments as “highly inappropriate and irresponsible and not worthy of any further comment”.

On Monday Mr Campbell appeared on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show, where it was put to him that he had made a joke about dead people.

The MP responded: “No, no. I was making reference to dead terrorists. You shouldn’t try to sanitise them by calling them dead people. They were dead terrorists.”

When it was put to Mr Campbell that Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan had called on DUP leader Arlene Foster to “rein in” the East Londonderry MP, he replied sarcastically: “Maybe I’d better have second thoughts then, if Pat Sheehan’s asking for that.”

He was then asked about Mrs Foster’s likely view on the row, Mr Campbell said: “Why would she have any interest in it whatsoever?”

The veteran DUP man said that he still would not share a joke with a member of Sinn Fein or have a cup of tea with a Sinn Fein member, although he would speak to them for the purposes of “business”.

On the same programme, journalist Malachi O’Doherty took issue with Mr Campbell’s comments, saying that “to align Celtic...to a Provisional IRA bomb team is really unfair to Celtic”.

And SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said it was insulting to Celtic fans who had nothing to do with Sinn Fein or the IRA for Mr Campbell to attempt to link the club to an IRA bomb team. He said it was “crass” of the DUP man “to try to make politics out of this event”.

Meanwhile, another DUP member has defended the burning of Sinn Fein posters on bonfires.

Dale Pankhurst, the chairman of North and West Belfast Young Democratic Unionists, wrote on Facebook: “Torching Sinn Fein posters is definitely not a hate crime by any stretch of the imagination. Murdering people because of their religion is and many of those who are on Sinn Fein posters did just that. Their irony is utterly disgusting.”