Following the military annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea by the Russian Federation in early 2014, supposedly in response to the demands of local Moscow-backed separatists, Valadimir Putin ordered the construction of an 18 kilometre long road and rail bridge to connect the isthmus to “mainland” Russia. A symbol of the occupied area’s formal integration into the national territory of the federation, the building contract was awarded to a pipeline company owned by a close ally of the Russian president and is due for final completion in 2019.
I was reminded of this very recent history with the news that Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, the main political grouping for Ireland’s British separatist minority in the north-east of the island, is calling once again for a bridge to be built connecting the United Kingdom to its troubled colonial outpost across the Irish Sea.
From the Irish Times:
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster has called on Scots to back proposals to build a bridge to Northern Ireland.
Ms Foster said there was “growing support” for the idea as she addressed an Orange parade in Fife.
She was the main speaker at the Cowdenbeath event, organised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland.
The DUP proposed a feasibility study into building a bridge to Scotland in 2015.
There is, of course, no support for the fantastical idea of a 35 kilometre long bridge between north-eastern Ireland and south-western Scotland, when most realistic estimates place the construction costs in the tens of billions of euros. Nor is there any real economic need for such a project when the money could be better spent on improving existing sea and air routes, and roads on either side of the Straits of Moyle. In fact, the concept is purely a political one, a desperate stunt latched onto by pro-union leaders in the UK-administered Six Counties, fearful that Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union will further undermine the existence of the British legacy colony.
In truth, Arlene Foster’s “Northern Ireland” bridge is intended, like Vladimir Putin’s Crimean Bridge, to be nothing more than a physical manifestation of foreign occupation and annexation in this country. It will be a message of rejection to the Irish and nationalist majority population on the island, a refusal to countenance the interests or aspirations of Foster’s own immediate neighbours, while serving as a lifeline for partition, a visible declaration of the contested region’s Britishness and territorial connection to the United Kingdom. It will be a declaration of “No Surrender” wrought in concrete and steel to comfort unionists in the long twilight of post-Brexit Britain.