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Sinéad O'Connor performing in 2020 Alamy
nothing compares

Sinéad O’Connor: A life of faith and courage

The talented singer-songwriter, who never shied away from calling out injustice, has died aged 56.

SINÉAD O’CONNOR has sadly died at the age of 56, leaving behind a legendary music career and lasting memories for fans in Ireland and around the world.

The singer-songwriter was propelled to international stardom in 1990 with her version of Nothing Compares 2 U. Written by Prince, Sinéad made the ballad her own and topped the charts around the world.

The simple but unforgettable accompanying video featured almost nothing else but a close-up frame of singing with tears rolling down her cheeks.

Born Sinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor in Glenageary, Co Dublin, in December 1966, the singer had a difficult childhood.

One of five children, Sinéad spoke out about being subjected to physical abuse at the hands of her mother, who died in a car crash in 1985. At the age of 15, she was placed in a Magdalene laundry for shoplifting and truancy.

Her musical talents were discovered and she released her first critically acclaimed album, The Lion And The Cobra, in 1987.

Her recording of Nothing Compares 2 U earned her multiple Grammy Award nominations and, in 1991, she was named artist of the year by Rolling Stone magazine.

Throughout her career, she recorded 10 solo albums and wrote songs for films and collaborated with other artists but was also well-known for her controversial moments.

In 1990, Sinéad said she would refuse to go on stage in New Jersey if the Star-Spangled Banner was performed.

She frequently spoke out about the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and made headlines two years later when she ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II while appearing as a guest on Saturday Night Live.

Sinéad was later ordained as a priest by a bishop from an independent Catholic group and announced that she wanted to be known as Mother Bernadette Mary.

In 2014, she revealed she had joined Sinn Féin and called for leader Gerry Adams to stand down.

The singer-songwriter attacked other celebrities in the press – including Madonna and Prince – and, in 2013, she published an open letter on her website to Miley Cyrus, warning the young star to avoid being sexually exploited by the music industry.

In 2016, US comedian Arsenio Hall revealed he was suing the singer after she accused him of supplying Prince with drugs and drugging her.

Her former manager Fachtna O’Ceallaigh and his company tried to sue her for €500,000 in July 2017 for alleged breach of contract by terminating their agreement and defamation after she was said to have published an open letter about him on her website.

Sinéad worried fans in 2017 when she spoke about feeling suicidal because of her mental health issues.

She spoke about her sexuality publicly since 2000, confirming over the years that she had relationships with both men and women.

She also spoke openly about suffering from mental health problems.

During an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007, Sinéad revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had suffered with suicidal thoughts.

The mother-of-four told Winfrey that medication had helped her find more balance but said it was “a work in progress”.

In 2012, Sinéad cancelled a planned tour, saying her doctor had told her to rest after a “very serious breakdown”. She spent time in a hospital for mental health evaluation in 2015.

She was reported missing in the US in May 2016 when she failed to return from an early morning bike ride after making a series of Facebook posts about her family.

In October 2018, she announced she had converted to Islam.

In January 2022, her 17-year-old son Shane was sadly found dead after being reported missing two days previously.

The singer described him as “the very light of [her] life”.

Earlier this year, her album ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got’ became the inaugural RTÉ Choice Music Prize Classic Irish Album, with the judging panel calling the album a “stunning body of work by an Irish artist, scorched with originality”.

Sinéad posted recently on Facebook that she was moving to London. A Sky documentary about the singer has been due to air from this Friday.

She is survived by three children.

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