Ireland mourns death of ‘trailblazing’ singer Sinead O’Connor

Sinead O'Connor
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DUBLIN, July 27 (Reuters) – Ireland on Thursday mourned the death of Sinead O’Connor, the singer who was remembered for a stirring voice that stopped people in their tracks on stage and told uncomfortable truths off it.

O’Connor, best known for the 1990 chart-topping hit “Nothing Compares 2 U”, died on Wednesday aged 56 after police found her unresponsive at an address in London. Her death is not being treated as suspicious, London’s Metropolitan Police said.

Irish president Michael D. Higgins led tributes from around the world on Wednesday, praising her fearless commitment to the important issues which she brought to public attention, “no matter how uncomfortable those truths may have been.”

“My mam rang me last night and she said did you hear about Sinead and she didn’t even have to say the second name. I knew exactly what she was talking about,” said Michelle Beatty, a 45-year-old marketing professional from Dublin who parked her car and cried inside for 15 minutes when she heard the news.

“She was important for so many women. She gave two fingers to the church, who at that time in the 90s had such a hold over Ireland. She was kind of dragging Ireland out of the dark ages kicking and screaming.”

“She stood up for people who didn’t have a voice, people who are marginalized and what a voice she had, the voice of an angel.”

O’Connor’s trademark shaved head and piercing eyes were on the front of every newspaper in Ireland and many abroad, while local radio shows were dominated by contributions from fellow artists, emotional listeners and the Dublin-born singer’s music.

Fans shared YouTube clips of past show-stopping performances on social media, as well as the rousing standing ovation she received in March when presented with the inaugural Irish Classic Album award at the annual Choice Music Prize ceremony.

She dedicated the award to “each of every member of Ireland’s refugee community.”

Columnist Una Mullally wrote in the Irish Times how Irish society had caught up with O’Connor in recent years, that people were “liberated enough to openly comprehend and appreciate her greatness at scale,” embracing her in a new way.

O’Connor’s famous declaration of “fight the real enemy” after ripping up of a photo of Pope John Paul II during a 1992 television appearance on “Saturday Night Live” had made her a controversial figure at home and abroad at the height of her fame.

When the Catholic church’s influence in Ireland began to crumble within a matter of years over a string of clerical child sex abuse scandals, it showed the singer was “way ahead of her time,” theatre manager Stephen Faloon said on Thursday.

Some people laid flowers outside her former home in Bray, County Wicklow, with one handwritten message on a picture of O’Connor on the front page of a newspaper reading “incomparable xx.”

“Not only is she a musical genius, the most talented songwriter. Politically, she was a trailblazer. She spoke up about things before they were acknowledged in the public,” said Faloon, 49, who was walking through central Dublin.

“So much bravery, so much courage, so fearless. The world has lost a brilliant person.”