Fintan O'Toole: Foster’s delight at the saving of Bombardier jobs has turned to indifference

A thousand Airbus jobs in east Belfast will be unviable if there is a hard Brexit

The Bombardier plant in Belfast is “a living legacy of a British and Protestant industrial world that shaped unionism itself”. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Bombardier plant in Belfast is “a living legacy of a British and Protestant industrial world that shaped unionism itself”. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Forget the Border and the backstop for a moment. Think Bombardier – that huge plant you pass on the way to Belfast City Airport, just east of Harland and Wolff. If you are a unionist, it ought to have a particular significance for you. It used to be the Short Brothers factory that made aircraft and missiles, mostly for the British armed forces.

It was the union in physical and economic form: Belfast’s industrial and engineering heritage deeply embedded in the British state. It was also embedded in the history of the second World War: Shorts made many of the bombers that pulverised Germany and was itself one of the main targets for German bombing raids on Belfast. And it was a bastion of working-class Protestant privilege: in 1988 just 11 per cent of its workforce was Catholic.

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