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Ireland bids farewell to singer Sinead O’Connor

By AFP - Aug 09,2023 - Last updated at Aug 09,2023

 

BRAY, Ireland — Celebrities, fans and other mourners of singer Sinead O’Connor turned out on Tuesday in the Irish town she once called home to pay their last respects at a poignant funeral procession ahead of her burial.

Hundreds lined the route of the cortege as it passed along the seafront in Bray, 20 kilometres south of Dublin, where she lived for 15 years.

Many spontaneously clapped and threw flowers on the front of the hearse carrying her coffin.

“I came up here today to pay my respects to Sinead, the legend she was,” Liam O’Neill, 56, from nearby Dun Laoghaire, told AFP from the procession route.

“She had a voice like a rock. She was extremely talented and brilliant,” he added, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with O’Connor’s face in her 20s.

The Grammy award-winning singer, best known for her 1990 cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, died last month after being found unresponsive at her London home. She was 56.

The musician, who rose to international fame in the nineties, was also mourned at a funeral just prior to the procession, attended by family, friends and dignitaries, before a private burial later.

Ireland’s President Michael Higgins and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar were among those attending the service, while activist and pop star Bob Geldof was part of the cortege.

“The outpouring of grief and appreciation of the life and work of Sinead O’Connor demonstrates the profound impact which she had on the Irish people,” Higgins said in a statement.

An imam led a Muslim funeral prayer, describing it as “an honour” to be part of the occasion “for the daughter of Ireland”. 

O’Connor had converted to Islam, changing her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat in 2018.

Her family offered the public the chance to give her a “last goodbye” by organising the funeral procession through Bray, saying she loved the town and its residents.

People left tributes outside the singer’s former home, named “Montebello”, which the convoy passed by.

One message left on the gatepost read: “Sinead, thank you for hearing us and responding... sorry for breaking your heart”. 

Others pinned up the Irish flag and pictures.

On a coastal hilltop overlooking Bray, a World War II navigational sign for pilots spelling Ireland in Irish — “Eire” — was decorated with a heart and “Sinead” in tribute.

 

‘Lioness and a lamb’

 

O’Connor’s death prompted a surge of public sympathy around the world and in Ireland, where her willingness to criticise the Catholic Church, in particular, saw her vilified by some and praised as a trailblazer by others.

“Besides being a fantastic musician, singer, she kind of instilled in people the need to speak out for injustice, for the different factions in society,” June Byrne, 73, told AFP, as she watched the cortege pass.

During her career O’Connor revealed she had been abused by her mother as a child. In 1992 she protested the abuse of children by the church, tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul II while performing on US television programme “Saturday Night Live”.

Tributes streamed in from political leaders, pop stars and others following the news of her death, many lauding her powerful voice and willingness to court controversy.

Fellow singer Annie Lennox called her “a lioness and a lamb”.

O’Connor’s agents have said she had been completing a new album and planning a tour as well as a movie based on her autobiography “Rememberings”. 

But the musician had also spoken publicly about her mental health struggles, telling Oprah Winfrey in 2007 that she struggled with thoughts of suicide and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

More recently she had shunned the limelight, in particular following the death of her son Shane from suicide last year aged 17.

An autopsy has reportedly been carried out to determine the cause of the singer’s death, which London police have said they were not treating as suspicious.

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