Arlene’s bridge to the past

When a politician is associated with the term “bridge building” then it is usually a positive sign.

Donald Trump became President Trump because he wanted to build a wall.

One is a civil engineering project of hope and togetherness, while the other is a structure that is designed to exclude.

Sometimes these ambitions projects serve no purpose in the real world, but it is about a politician being free and easy with public money.

In the last decade “the bridge to nowhere” in Alaska was a powerful symbol of Pork barrel politics.

However, in an era when the greatest country in the world wants to build a wall then a few more bridges might be an idea.

Of course, context is everything.

Not all bridges are about a harmonious coming together.

The former First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, wants a bridge to be built between Narne Arne and Fair Caledonia.

For her, a physical link between “the mainland” and Northern Ireland would have huge political significance.

The putative cost of this project is £15bn.

To put that in context the annual budget deficit of the Six County statelet is £10bn.

That is what the Westminster money tree has to find every year to keep Norn Iron afloat.

Of course, these are conjoined islands and at the closest point, the coast of Antrim and the Kintyre peninsula are only separated by 12 nautical miles.

Your humble correspondent can personally attest that it is a fine day out on a sea kayak.

For the avoidance of doubt, that journey was completed several decades ago!

That narrow channel was well travelled by the ancients.

Indeed, at one point the traveller might not have required to leave dry land.

The best guess by geologists is that there was a land bridge at some point before the sea levels inexorably rose after the ice age.

Of course, Ms Foster has a very transparent political reason for pushing this ambitious and hugely expensive civil engineering project.

Scotland has always had great cultural weight in Northern Ireland.

Pretty much from the moment that Partition happened Unionism lost its Irish dimension.

Ulster hero Edward Carson was a Dubliner who self-identified as an Irishman.

However, by the 1980s certain people within Loyalism where exploring an alternative ethnic origin myth.

That was the Cruithin myth, the idea that the Protestants of Northern Ireland were, in fact, Picts as opposed to Gaels.

The Ulster Loyalists were searching for an ersatz identity that didn’t start with them being a British settler population in the modern period.

This was an attempt to have a narrative that pre-dated the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century.

Yes, it was all rather risible until you remember the Shankill Butchers.

A chap called Lenny Murphy actually believed he was at war with the alien Irish.

Bizarre doesn’t do it justice.

In a recent documentary, Ms Foster stated that in the event of a united Ireland she felt that she would have to leave this island.

Ms Foster stated this bridge building ambition at an Orange Order event in Cowdenbeath last weekend.

Just before she travelled over to Scotland the former First Minister had been taking part in some highly sequenced bridge building of her own.

In recent weeks she has attended a GAA match, an end of Ramadan celebration and spoke at an LGBT event at Stormont.

For someone who doesn’t do “gesture politics” it has been a whirlwind tour of groups that the DUP routinely denigrate and other.

Ms Foster perhaps hopes that all the people of Scotland are like the marchers in Cowdenbeath.

The demographics on the Six County statelet are inexorably altering away from an ethnic unionist majority.

If the Union is to survive on this island then people from a traditionally nationalist cultural background will have to vote for that in a future plebiscite.

For some, this is a hostage to fortune and they see a day when the majority of people in their “wee cuntry” will vote to be part of 32 county republic.

That is an appalling vista for some and there is now a trickle of Northern Ireland folk moving to Scotland, mainly Ayrshire.

At times link this the “Scottish connection” means more and more to Ireland’s insecure British tribe.

However, Scotland’s largest city Glasgow voted in 2014 to leave the United Kingdom.

Of course, she will have always find a warm welcome among members of the Orange Order and customers of Pariah FC at Ibrox.

As I have written here before the Uber Britishness down Edmiston Driveway is at variance with the changing zeitgeist in Scotland post-Indy Ref.

As well as not having as many allies in Scotland as in times past, Ms Foster is also beset by European troubles.

Post-Brexit the economic viability of the Northern Statelet makes Sevco look like a shrewd investment.

The Fermanagh woman whose maiden name is Kelly is clearly uncomfortable with anything Irish, which is rather sad.

Of course, what Ms Foster wants isn’t a bridge to Scotland, but an escape route to the past.

The Scotland of her imagination only exists when the Orange drums are banged during the summer months and when Ibrox is full of The People.

Although the future will be uncomfortable for her and her DUP colleagues it will be massively better for all of the people of these islands.

Discover Phil’s dramatic play Rebellion