Northern Ireland news

DUP chairman urged to intervene after Gregory Campbell doubles down on controversial remarks

Gregory Campbell has refused to apologise for controversial comments. Picture by Alan Lewis/Photopress

AN MLA in Gregory Campbell's constituency has written to the DUP's chairman urging him to initiate action against the East Derry MP over his "totally unacceptable" remarks about the ethnic make-up of those taking part in a episode of Songs of Praise.

Mr Campbell has refused to apologise for the comments and has dismissed criticism as a "contrived controversy".

The outspoken MP described an episode of the BBC programme featuring the Gospel Singer of the Year competition as "the BBC at its BLM (Black Lives Matter) worst".

In the assembly on Monday afternoon, his party leader Arlene Foster said her colleague's comments were "not a sentiment" she identified with, while her DUP colleague Mervyn Storey said he would not have made similar remarks.

The DUP has said nothing further about the comments, which are the latest in a series of provocative statements from the East Derry MP.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry has written to Westminster's standards commissioner regarding Mr Campbell's latest outburst, however, it is thought unlikely that any sanctions will be imposed on the MP given that the watchdog has limited powers.

SDLP MLA Cara Hunter yesterday wrote to DUP chairman Lord Maurice Morrow urging him to intervene.

"It is deeply regrettable that after a programme of enriching and uplifting gospel music performed by incredibly talented singers that a member of parliament would seek to make a political statement based on the colour of the performers’ skin," she said in the letter.

"The comments that Mr Campbell made were incredibly hurtful and, I believe, totally unacceptable."

The East Derry MLA said there was a responsibility to "call out racism" and a particular responsibility of elected representatives.

"It was extremely disappointing to see Mr Campbell double down on these comments yesterday, rather than issue a whole hearted and meaningful apology," she said.

" I listened as the first minister promised the comments would be addressed and, like many others was surprised by the tone of Mr Campbell’s further statement."

Ms Hunter calls on Lord Morrow to investigate the matter and "remedy the harm that has been caused".

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