Ross Kemp won’t tell you this: Some reflections on the 11th and 12th

By Dr Dave Magee

University of Aberdeen



In the past I have described some forms of Loyalist masculinity as ‘the elephant in the peace process’.  We saw that again on the 12th and 13th July, when violence broke out in response to the Parades Commission’s decision to block the return march up the Woodvale Road for certain sections of the Orange Order and bands.  For some, trouble was almost inevitable.  Indeed, Ross Kemp was here from England to capture what happened on film for a TV show.  He won’t have been disappointed.

In this post I want to talk about another type of Loyalist masculinity that does not make for such good headlines, and one that neither Ross Kemp nor Stephen Nolan will be making programmes about anytime soon.

On the 11th night I did a tour of several bonfire sites in communities I am familiar with.  Often, in local communities, many (but not all) of these bonfires are organised by either UDA or UVF aligned groups.  Early in the evening, when I was walking towards a UVF bonfire, a local resident I have known for many years shouted over to me, ‘Make sure you come down to the UDA one later!’  We both laughed at the absurdity of it all.

I won’t name the area, but one of these bonfires was organised jointly by a local UVF ex-prisoners group and a community association.

The main attraction of the night was a local rock tribute act, which went down brilliantly with the couple of hundred local men, women, and children who attended.  There were burgers, beer, and (mostly bad) dancing.  The event was free but there was a collection taken for a charity that works with people who have learning disabilities.  The only hint of trouble was when one guy – he was from out of town and spoke with an English accent – who had too much to drink was told by security to go and take a five minute walk and calm down.  When he returned there were smiles and handshakes.

After the music was over, instead of a bonfire there was a beacon.  This was, simply put, a metal cage shaped like a pyramid and filled with wood pulp.  The organisers explained to me how proud they were that their beacon was eco-friendly.  I mention this because it is unlikely that Stephen Nolan is going to run a show anytime soon on Loyalists who are concerned about the environmental impact of bonfires on their communities.



Given the publicity certain bonfires received in the past week it’s worth noting that there were no statues, no effigies, and no Irish flags to be seen.  The only way you would have known where you were was by a few Union flags and UVF flags scattered around the estate.  However, there was one Irish flag in the area.  If you did want to see it you would have to go to the UVF ex-prisoners community office, where it hangs on the wall, alongside a copy of the 1916 Irish Proclamation.  And it’s not there to throw darts at, it’s part of a history project that is run in the centre.

This, of course, is not the face of Loyalism that is portrayed in the media.  It is progressive, tolerant, and focused on peace.  After the antics of the Orange Order and the rest over the past couple of days they would do well to take notice of the example of these Loyalist ex-prisoners.

So what of the violence seen then on the 12th day?  For those of us who work for peace all the year round, such violence is not just an inconvenience or an embarrassment.  It leaves us with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomach.  It’s like a knife through the heart.

If we can conclude one thing from the history of conflict on this island, it is that violence will get us nowhere.  It is a never ending spiral of pain and destruction.  There are no easy answers to deeply rooted complex problems.  We need community leaders and politicians with courage and creativity.  The question is: ‘Do they have what it takes?’  There is much work to be done.  Perhaps instead of blaming others we can all start by taking a good look at ourselves and ask, ‘What can I do that will make a difference?’



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Ross Kemp won’t tell you this: Some reflections on the 11th and 12th

  1. David Howell says:

    I am a film editor cutting a doc for BBC3. I’ve done the job for nearly 26 years and lived in NI for the last 8. The film is about the division still existing within NI society and viewed through the prism of the Ardoyne / Glenbryn communities of North Belfast. I have been astounded by the openness and honesty of the loyalist community and the members of the Pride of Ardoyne band and also by young nationalist / republican residents of Ardoyne. They’ll never agree but show more dignity and leadership than any of their political leadership.

    Please accept that this is my personal opinion and not a professional one. I just feel inspired by our contributers.

  2. Would Like 2 Remain Nameless says:

    Well said Dave. I am from derry and have only been here in belfast for the past 3 weeks . Im currently beside the village in fact the bonfire was maybe less than 50 meters from my place and i must say everyone at it was having a great time with no trouble. a couple of times i was even tempted 2 go out and join then but i just didn’t think a catholic from Derry would be given much of a welcome but you never know maybe it was just a fear thing on my behalf. I do think that we need more celebrity events together instead of what we have no with no we can’t party 2day because that’s ther day. It is just a pity that a small number of thugs get all the headlines for the 12th and so many parades pasted off peaceful.

    • Remain nameless please says:

      I love your comment. It reminds me of stories (true, not fairytales) which my Mum & Granny told me. Where Catholics came to watch their Protestant neighbours marade their local village before heading to the twelfth. They clapped their hands and wishes them a great day. But not only that, whilst they were away these same Catholic neighbours looked after their houses, farm animals etc. The actions were repeated on the 15th August on Hibernians day.
      This is exactly how it should be, I was brought up to respect all cultures and religions – I was more afraid of what my mother would say to me (or getting a clip with the wooden spoon) than I was any bigot Protestant. I now bring my two daughters up with the same morals and standards.

  3. Pingback: Reflections on the 11th. and 12th.: Dr. Dave Magee | Longkesh Inside Out

  4. Shane Mc Aleer says:

    Whilst I would agree that some 11th night bonfires may be peaceful,only slightly sectarian ones ,this doesn’t tally with my experience the other night when from across the fields I could hear children singing at a local bonfire “,aw well,thats nice” I thought, before I realised they were actually singing “I’d rather be a Paki than a taig”.The problem here is that protestants/loyalists are still teaching the poor children that they are better than Catholics who are “dirty” and “scum” etc.The fact that there were U.V.F flags at the bonfire you attended speaks volumes,as does the fact that you weren’t offended by them.It is clear where your sympathies lie.Orangeism is sectarian by its very nature,THAT is the problem.I’m afraid it appears you are attempting to foist some kind of “wholesome”image upon the Orange Order.What you witnessed was an exception,and I find it difficult to believe,given all the recent coverage, that loyalism is capable of the changes that you mention.

    • Thomas Moore says:

      I don’t know whether to laugh at the stupdity of the Comment “Orangism is sectarian by its very nature” or cry that someone should be so opinionated and ignorant of the truth.
      Orangism is not sectarian at all, I know of a few people who were born Catholic and who joined the Orange lodge after renouncing the Catholic church. Orangism celebrates King William III of Orange who is widely recognised as the forefather of Democracy, the right of free speech. Most loyalists in Ulster are of Protestant / Orange persuation as I am sure you will be aware.
      Now lets look at Nationalists. Nationalists / Republicans have the opinion that there should be a United Ireland ruled from Dublin, ruled by Fiena Foil (or however its spelt) / Sinn Fien and the IRA.
      The IRA’s declaration of 1916 quite clearly states that no True Irishman shall rest until every protestant has been driven from Erins soil and then onto Scotlands Soil, or words to that effect.
      Now ask yourself which is more sectarian , people who celebrate part of history (the birth of democracy) or people who wish to drive every protestant from Irelands Soil. I know my opinion!

      • Ancient Greece says:

        William of Orange is responsible for the birth of democracy? WHAT?! hahaha you’re deluded.

      • Micheál says:

        The text of the 1916 Proclamation makes no reference to the faith of the Reformed Churches, neither was it issued by the IRA, which did not exist at the time. Please examine text cited below. Your reference to the fact that Catholics may not join the OO or must renounce their faith to do so surely affirms the point that it is a sectarian organisation.

        Poblacht na h Éireann.[1]

        The Provisional Government of the Irish Republic

        To the people of Ireland.

        IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

        Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

        We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty: six times during the past three hundred years[2] they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and its exaltation among the nations.

        The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

        Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

        We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

  5. Tatty says:

    Hi Dave,

    Enjoyed your blog.
    What you witnessed on the Eleventh Night was not unusual or a ‘halleys comet’ experience of people celebrating their culture.
    This was played out across many PUL communities in Northern Ireland.
    This was people celebrating their culture, history and traditions without fear or intimidation.
    The violence that erupted on the Twelfth was a result of the Parades Commission and others, claiming to want a shared future but refusing to allow members of one community and tradition the freedom to enjoy and express their identity and culture.
    It’s unfortunate however that whereas the vast majority of celebrations pass off not only peacefully, but bring great benefits to others, there are still the few who refuse to accept there are two traditions living in this country, but they only want theirs acknowledged.
    Long may peaceful bonfires and peaceful parades continue
    and long may you continue to attend them.

  6. Pingback: Shirley-Anne McMillan

  7. Anonymous says:

    Good points Dave and well said. But what are your views on the wider politics of the violence? What’s your views on the Orange Order’s actions? And what about the Parades Commission’s role? We need some objective and calm views on these key issues surely?

  8. Smyth Harper says:

    Dave, I have no problem with your account, which I’m sure you feel was explainable. Our problem is the inbred distrust and the “them & us” mentality which pervades our Belfast interface areas. Both “sides” are equally culpable, dysfunctional upbringing is set in stone…sadly. Respect for the “opposite” opinion is not taught at the “Mother’s knee”, rather it’s “distrust & hatred for the other side”. Demonising the “other side” is sadly alive & well in Northern Ireland and will take generations to change.

  9. Thanks for writing this. I am a foreigner who experienced the holiday this year for the first time. I came to similar conclusions as you here:

  10. Gillian says:

    I enjoyed reading this, and the comments which are well balanced. Shane is correct in his observations on poor parenting skills within loyalists communities, I’ve witnessed this myself as I live in one, and like most others, it is an extremely deprived environment. My children were never taught that their catholic neighbours and friends were ‘dirty’ and ‘scum’ and Shane needs to be more responsible when he feels the need to label entire communities according to his own bias. I’ve been called orange scum, had my windows smashed and my car damaged so many times I’ve lost count, simply because I’m a protestant and I can still visit and socialise with my catholic friends in nationalist areas because I’m a logical person who knows better than to blame an entire community on the actions of a few hoods. People in Northern Ireland need to look for good sensible investigative journalism instead of allowing themselves to be drowned in todays’ media saturation. This blog was very good.

  11. Forward for a better future for all, says:

    First thank you Dave on your true comments as a person who is from the estate that you mention we have been doing this for the past 3 years celebrating this part of our culture with pride and it is open to all at our even we have a wide range of people including Spanish,Russian,Polish and many others from our diverse community,yes there is one UVF flag which represents our forefathers who fought at the Somme,I also must point out that without the help and support of UVF ex prisoners this event would not have taken place,yes they were involved in a conflict but their conflict is long over and they are working hard to put something back in their community,and yes the media will not highlight the work the good work that goes on right across N Ireland by ex prisoners,also I must point out still there people in working class community’s who still treat ex prisoners in a shameful way as do the so called political leaders in Stormount who still hide behind closed doors when ex prisoners ask for help to continue their forward thinking for a future for all.And I would invite anyone who would like to come along and see for themselves the changes that ex prisoners in this particular estate have made over the past several years.

  12. Pingback: Twelfth Riots: very little to do with parades per se | Ian James Parsley

  13. daphne says:

    All very sane and lovely but my area of Belfast is paralyzed every July by a group of thugs who go against the will of the majority, they set up a bonfire every year, they destroy the ground and this year they also set fire to material nearly which is still smoking today. They threatened the fire brigade and sent them away and locals are afraid to tackle them.. show me the justice in this, the free speech, the loyalty,

  14. Pingback: Tolerating the intolerable | thegunsblog's Blog

  15. Alan Carmichael says:

    Great article Dave.

    The vast majority of Protestants/Loyalists just want to celebrate our beloved culture, I have many Roman Catholic friends who I respect and who actually call me on the 12th morning and wish me a great day.

    Republicans need to learn more about the Orange Order and why its important to us to march the Queens highway.

    More power to your pencil my good sir.

  16. Pingback: Ross kemp won’t tell you this: some reflections on the 11th and 12th | dgmagee

  17. Pingback: False equivalencies and internment bonfires. - Page 4

  18. Paul says:

    A good article otherwise let down by the “After the antics of the Orange Order” sentence where apparently the otherwise decent sense of nuance has been thrown out the window to sloppily deride what was an overwhelmingly respectful twelfth from the Orange Order. I can assure you that most OO members are a lot more respectful people than most ex-prisoners.

    • Forward for a better future for all, says:

      Yet again a lot of people have nothing good to say about your blog Dave I am not afraid to mention the Estate which is the Bowtown were over the past several years a lot of hard work has went on to make this an estate to be proud off, some off the comments were very negative,here in this estate without Loyalist ex prisoners working for and behalf of their community this estate would have been stuck in the past,I would invite anyone to come along to our office and see for themselves how forward we have went and the work that goes on a lot of which goes unheard of,and the work that goes on with learning our children not only about their own culture but about the culture of others,about the many.many courses that take place free and are open to all including history,culture amongst others and the cross community work that goes on.The future of this wee country lies with the children they are the future we must insure it is a future that they can embrace with pride and equality.

  19. Pingback: BBC 3: Petrol Bombs and Peace (9pm Mon 5th Aug)

  20. You made some really good points there. I looked on the web to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>