I was a little unsure about what I would write about for this feature this week. However, Tivo did the one good thing it’s ever managed and has been quietly series linking Ross Kemp: Extreme World. How fortuitous. This evening I have watched this week’s episode, which discusses the marching season in Northern Ireland.
Ross Kemp has made a seamless transition from drama to serious reporting. I remember watching Ross Kemp on Gangs when it first came out for a laugh and being surprised at the content. He is serious, insightful and ever so brave. If you doubt it, watch one episode of Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men and then watch Ross Kemp. The difference is embarrassing.
His episode on Northern Ireland was definitely up to the usual standard. There was a period when I spent some time in Northern Ireland and I found it very weird. To say that, in theory, I was still in the UK, it is difficult to think of anywhere I’ve been that felt more alien. While I met a lot of lovely people, the segregation and hostility from both sides shocked me.
Ross Kemp interviewed both sides, and what came out overwhelmingly was how similarly both sides were feeling. Both feel like second class citizens, and both perceive that they are losing in this war. They both feel very passionately about the situation, and who can blame them? Terrible things have happened and been done on both sides. Unfortunately, these things continue to happen because the weight of history is too heavy for anyone to let go, and there is no easy solution.
I think what Ross Kemp felt so strongly about, and what I also found bizarre, is that it is essentially suburbia. Take away the murals and the painted kerbs and you could be in England. Yet people are throwing fireworks and bricks because they aren’t allowed to march along one particular street. In another scene, a troop of police cars – which look more like tanks – come to search a house for bombs. As Ross points out, in England this would be big news. Not so Northern Ireland.
The main thing that came out was the futility of the whole thing. As the situation stands, there is no chance of peace, only further segregation. The riot over the 2013 marches lasted four days and cost 28 million pounds. The road was covered with glass from broken bottles and the water cannon was unleashed. As Ross Kemp pointed out, surely it would be better to spend that money on bringing the communities together. The only thing is, how?