Foster urges Scots to back plan for bridge to Northern Ireland

DUP leader says she may be unable to block gay marriage law if powersharing resumes

DUP leader Arlene Foster with participants at an Orange Order march in Cowdenbeath, Fife. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire.

DUP leader Arlene Foster with participants at an Orange Order march in Cowdenbeath, Fife. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire.

 

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.

“The connection between our two countries has always been special,” she said. “What better way to cement that relationship than through a bridge?

“Amongst all the nasty and abusive comments made about the Orange wouldn’t it be great to become an actual bridge builder between Northern Ireland and Scotland?

“Whilst some foolishly attempt to use Brexit to build a border between Scotland and Northern Ireland, we are more progressive, we want to build a bridge.”

‘Certainty’

Speaking before the event, Ms Foster made a plea for certainty on Brexit.

“I think most people want to see that now. We’re two years after the referendum,” she said.

“It’s important that we get that certainty soon.

“It takes two to tango and we need the European Union to step up to the plate and to recognise that Brexit is happening, so let’s make it a good Brexit for us, and a good Brexit for the European Union as well.”

Earlier this month, Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Scotland criticised Ms Foster’s decision to attend the parade, stating her time would be better spent in Northern Ireland, where there is no devolved government in place following its collapse more than a year ago.

The DUP leader — who addressed the parade but did not participate in the march through Cowdenbeath — said: “I am the last in a long line of unionist leaders coming along here.

“I am not really sure why people would object to me coming here today. This is my culture actually, this is who I am.” -

Gay marriage

Ms Foster also indicated that her party may be unable to block a gay marriage bill in Northern Ireland. She was previously criticised by gay rights activists and Scottish National party politicians after it emerged she had written to ministers in Edinburgh in 2015 asking them to bar gay Northern Irish residents from converting civil partnerships to marriages in Scotland.

After the Irish vote to back gay marriage and Westminster politicians demanded the UK government impose reform on Northern Ireland, Ms Foster shifted ground and became the first DUP leader to attend an LGBTQ event, doing so in Belfast last week.

She suggested on Saturday the DUP’s objections to gay marriage would be dealt with by negotiation in Stormont when powersharing resumes.

“We don’t have a majority so even if we did apply that petition of concern there’s no guarantee that would actually go through,” Ms Foster said. “So these are all issues we need to discuss in the talks and indeed in the devolved administration.” - PA/Guardian