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'enemy within' Singer Joby Fox says he has 'empathy' for teen rioters because he did the same thing as a young man

"I have empathy with those kids, I understand where they are"

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Joby Fox. Picture: Martin McKeown

Joby Fox. Picture: Martin McKeown

Joby Fox. Picture: Martin McKeown

Singer-songwriter Joby Fox has dedicated his latest song to teenage rioters – because he was one himself.

As violence has erupted across the country and with loyalist areas left in flames, the veteran rock star said he has nothing but sympathy for the young people thrust on to the front line.

The result is The Enemy Within, a musical message of understanding.

“I have empathy with those kids, I understand where they are, what they’re doing because I was that child,” he said.

Joby, who made his name with 1980s rock band The Bankrobbers before forming the critically acclaimed Energy Orchard and who is now an internationally renowned artist and peace activist, said he has been left “deeply saddened” by the scenes of the last two weeks.

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Youths clashed with Loyalists at the Lanark Way peaceline on the Springfield Road in west Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Youths clashed with Loyalists at the Lanark Way peaceline on the Springfield Road in west Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Youths clashed with Loyalists at the Lanark Way peaceline on the Springfield Road in west Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

He said images of young people rioting brought back memories of his own childhood in west Belfast.

“I have a charge for petrol bombing on my record,” said, “I have sympathy for these young loyalist rioters. I grew up in west Belfast and got myself caught up with a couple of charges.

“They’ve followed me round the rest of my life, but I’ve been lucky I went down the artistic route, it hasn’t restricted my career, I’ve done OK but if I was going for a ‘real’ job?”

He said he’s not particularly interested in the stated reasons for the trouble.

“We all know Brexit is the backdrop this time, but it doesn’t matter what the backdrop is, we’re seeing the manifestation of a broken society and we’re all responsible for that in some way,” he said.

It is the hidden hand of people with an agenda in the ‘bigger picture’ that are condemning our youth to recycling our past.

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The song refers to “The dogs on the street, they are lying low; The masters conspire to run the show; This walk-on part in this play, it has to go.”

Last week a 13 -year-old was arrested in south Belfast as bands of kids attacked police lines with bricks and bottles. Similar scenes have been replicated across Northern Ireland as unionist and loyalist frustration over the Irish Sea border continues to grow.

“It is not right that our children should be collateral damage with out inability to deal with the past,” he said.

“The symbols and signs that have been so potent in the past are being pressed into our young people’s heads, we need to find a way to desconstruct those images.”

And he said he had much sympathy for a police force “caught in the middle”.

“It’s 23 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the creation of the PSNI was supposed to give us a more balanced society but now they are caught in the middle, it’s tough for them and I feel sorry for that.”

Joby has long been involved in reconciliation work. In 2013 he released his End of the War project with a solo album and short film (Lost Commandos) which toured the country challenging perceptions of identity in Northern Ireland.

The show opened a UN peace conference in Hong Kong and he has taken it to New York.

“What we all hoped was that after the Troubles and then the GFA we would find that so much of what we face is a class issue, the social aspects and confront those.

“I’ve seen loyalist and republicans in working-class areas working with each other, recognising each other.”

“I was lucky, I moved on, but I still have friends who have a siege mentality because of what happened back in my day, people I know have never left west Belfast.

“And I can see it happening again, I just wish it wasn’t but it is the workings out of a dysfunctional society these are children starting out on life, we shouldn’t allow hidden hands and a rush of adrenalin to define their lives.”

You can find The Enemy Within on Joby’s Facebook page.

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