Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Ross Kemp's Extreme World: Loyalists lose PR battle as rioters run amok on Sky

Extreme Belfast: Ross Kemp during filming amid riots on the Twelfth at Ardoyne

Ross Kemp has a soft spot for Northern Ireland. His TV show caught us pretty well – the humdrum morphing seamlessly into the menacing.

He first started visiting here when he was one of the celebs Mo Mowlam invited as a house guest to Hillsborough Castle when she was Secretary of State from 1997 to 1999.

She wanted people to like the place and, in Ross Kemp's case, she seems to have succeeded. He has been coming back ever since and is on a mission to explain.

The tone is earnest – almost like a schools' programme – as the TV hardman strives to put everything in context.

It is not particularly exciting, but worth watching for what it shows us of how we are seen by well-disposed people, like Kemp, in England.

The uncomfortable part is that the image is not particularly flattering – particularly to loyalists, who do a good deal of the talking in the show.

The fact that many are subtitled shows how alien the programme-makers think they will look and sound to audiences across the water, in spite of the sea of Union flags which surrounds them.

A pre-Westminster election poll in the Sunday Times some years back found that English voters believed that, out of a range of local politicians, John Hume best represented UK values. It was the same in Ardoyne.

Kemp sits with Anne Robinson, an Ardoyne resident, on garden furniture on her neat little lawn.

She gives off about loyalists peeing in gardens and acting rowdy and insulting around the Twelfth – she was for all the world like a Home Counties' housewife complaining about football yobs.

We cut to the loyalist protests and police dressed like Robocop are being carried off injured, while shirtless men dance on Land Rovers.

Kemp dodges a beer can and the water cannons are rolled in. "One minute Woodvale was like Ealing and the next it was not and that happened very quickly," he observed.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that Ms Robinson will appear the more sympathetic figure to families sitting around their TVs back in England.

In some earlier years, the images might have been different; with rioting in Ardoyne overshadowing the march, as loyalists will point out.

That didn't happen this year and memories in Britain are short.

That is why this well-intentioned film was so damaging to the loyalist cause.