A CASTLEDERG politician has been heavily criticised after he was accused of mocking and disrespecting the Irish language.
On Monday of last week the UUP’s Derek Hussey posted a message to social media in response to alleged concerns over new road traffic signage in the Derg area. This signage, which was erected by activists from Sinn Fein, bears both the English and Irish, ‘slow’ and ‘go mall.’ The party said the new signs in Spamount, Erganagh and Castlederg were erected due to a dearth of commitment from the Department of Infrastructure to address traffic calming issues in problem areas.
“Receiving quite a few concerns today about strange signage being erected in and around Castlederg,” Derek Hussey’s initial post on Facebook suggested. “Clearly signage that is neither official nor legal!”
However following this post and various interactions from Facebook ‘friends’ Mr Hussey then posted a comment saying, “Probably an advert for yoghurt.”
To this, former UUP MLA Alastair Patterson replied, “Or curry.”
The duo were referencing DUP MLA Gregory Campbell’s infamous comments at Stormont in 2014. After beginning an address to the Assembly he said, “Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer.”
He was consequently barred from the chamber for a day for failing to apologise with the Speaker saying his conduct “well short of standards expected from MLAs”.
The Irish sentence “go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle” translates as “thank you, Speaker” and is used by nationalist MLAs in the chamber.
“This week much needed ‘Slow/Go Mall’ signage was erected throughout the district due to the lack of commitment from the Department of Infrastructure to address the issue in problem areas,” Sinn Fein activist Grace McDermott explained. “The response to this signage has been overwhelmingly positive and people are so grateful to finally see action.
“However, it’s very sad to see UUP and DUP reps and members take this as an opportunity to divide the community of Castlederg once again and also use it as an opportunity to mock and disrespect the Irish language community with their degrading language. So so sad to see.
“Some of them should worry about their own disgusting driving history than slating others for erecting signage which will actually protect lives.”
With that comment, Mrs McDermott was referencing Derek Hussey’s three drink-driving convictions, the last of which was last year and which resulted in the UUP councillor being suspended from council for 15 months.
Following Mr Hussey’s initial post on the new signs, hundreds of comments have been made on Facebook, with some people agreeing with his view that the signs are not legitimate as they were not erected in an official capacity by the department. However other commentators slated his treatment of the Irish language.
Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Hussey said his ‘yoghurt’ comment was not intended as an insult to Irish speakers.
“It was a response to an acquaintance who would have fully understood the original author (Gregory Campbell’s) comments,” he suggested.
Mr Hussey continued in a further statement, “The issue is that many Unionists see the wording used as a two fingered salute by a ‘cumann’ to them and their values and those are the concerns that were being communicated to myself leading to the original post on Facebook…
“The continued weaponization of the language by Sinn Fein is extremely regrettable and I comment as one whose Presbyterian Monaghan hurling grandfather spoke fluently.
“It is regrettable that some ignore the message and attempt to shoot the messenger.”
He concluded, “Go raibh maith agat, agus slan go foill!”