Sinéad O’Connor has died at the age of 56, her family announced on Wednesday evening. In a statement, the singer’s family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.” Police in London confirmed she was found dead in a property in the city. President Michael D Higgins led tributes, saying Ireland had lost “one of our greatest and most gifted composers, songwriters and performers of recent decades, one who had a unique talent and extraordinary connection with her audience, all of whom held such love and warmth for her ... May her spirit find the peace she sought in so many different ways.” Read the full report here.
- Tributes: ‘May her spirit find the peace she sought’
- Una Mullally: Sinéad O’Connor rejected the easy life for one of truth-telling
- Sinéad O’Connor: A take-no-prisoners defiance in the face of trauma
- Sinéad O’Connor 1966-2023: A life in pictures
- Sinéad O’Connor’s first Irish Times interview, from 1986: ‘I don’t need to drink or take drugs. All I need to do is sing
After vigils in Dublin and London were held tonight, further gatherings in O’Connor’s honour are set to take place in the coming days. On Friday night, another Dublin gathering will be held at Penny Lane.
On Sunday at 1pm, there will also be an event in Barnardo Square on Dame St, next to Dublin City Hall, organised by the Rosa Socialist Feminist Movement.
On Tuesday August 1st, a full moon event at The Hollow in the Phoenix Park will double up as a tribute to O’Connor. Featuring musical acts, the event runs from 7-11pm.
Stay tuned tomorrow for further updates and coverage of the tributes that continue to come in for Sinéad O’Connor.
Irish author Sinéad Gleeson is one of a number of writers who have paid tribute to O’Connor, Martin Doyle reports.
“She once sang, ‘Thank you for hearing me,’ but it’s us who owe her an incalculable debt of gratitude,” says Gleeson. “For her steadfastness and activism, for her unwavering resolve, for her generosity to so many. But mostly for her singular vocals, a divine and otherworldly gift that she chose to share with us. Thank you, Sinéad.”
Hugh Dooley reports from the Temple Bar vigil:
A crowd of more than 50 people gathered at the Irish Music Wall of Fame in Temple Bar, Dublin, to pay tribute to musician and activist Sinéad O’Connor on Thursday evening. Locals and fans spoke about why O’Connor was important to them as they sang along to songs such as Black Boys on Mopeds.
Sorcha Hackett (39) from Rialto recalled her first memories of Sinéad O’Connor. “When I was six, I remembered screaming crying to my mam asking could I shave my head when Nothing Compares 2 U came out. I had never heard anything like her, I was just blown away and I was obsessed straight away!”
Enda O’Dowd has also produced a video of the vigil.
Footage has emerged of mourners attending vigils in O’Connor’s memory. Here, crowds gather in Temple Bar in Dublin’s city centre.
U2 are the latest Irish artists to pay tribute to O’Connor, calling her a “heroine.”
Meanwhile the Irish Institute of Music and Song Lovers in Balbriggan has lowered the national flag outside their campus this week in honour of O’Connor, who they label “one of Ireland’s most iconic artists”. The Institute has also opened a book of condolences which is now open to the public to allow them to pay tribute to O’Connor.
“When I heard of Sinéad’s passing, it was such devastating news, it’s especially poignant as we currently have a songwriting retreat happening on campus and alot of our participants grew up inspired by Sinéad and are now pursuing a career in songwriting because of the direct influence she had on them,” said Michael T Dawson, CEO of the Institute.
“She was one of a kind, original, brilliant, and a rebel, her music will live on forever”
Irish producer David Holmes has revealed that he was working with O’Connor on an album which had only one track remaining. According to Holmes, they were due to finish work in September.
“Back in 2018 I was invited by Joe Lindsay to Shane MacGowan’s 60th,” he writes on Instagram, explaining how he came to meet O’Connor. “Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie, Imelda May, BP Fallon, Bono, Lisa O’Neill, Finbar Fury, with Cait O’Riordan, Spider Stacy, Jem Finer, Terry Woods of The Pogues - all there to celebrate Shane but one artist in particular stood out by a country mile - Sinéad O’Connor - and she stole the show.
“After the show we went back stage for a drink before heading back to Belfast and suddenly Sinéad appeared. As she walked in my direction, and knowing that this was my one chance to talk to her I quickly introduced myself and told her that I wanted to make a record with her about healing. To my surprise her ears pricked up and after a quick chat she gave me her number not having a clue who I was.
“I’ll never forget that moment and how tickled she was - fully endorsing my brass neck. That was Sinéad. We stayed in touch and over the course of the next five years we somehow made that record. We only had one track to record which we planned on creating in sept[ember], but saying that, the eight tracks we finished together, each one as powerful as the next.
“Every time I recorded her in my studio it was a pinch yourself moment. I really felt that I was in the presence of greatness like a Nina Simone, Billie Holiday or Karen Dalton. A giant in popular music but what made her so special, apart from that voice and vision was her fearlessness & honesty not only as an artist but as a human being.
“I always felt that Sinéad was light years ahead of her time. The bravery of standing up on SNL and calling out the Catholic Church for protecting monsters disguised as priests and nuns. She spoke truth to power and was cancelled for it. Sinéad was the definition of Art. Sinéad was a disrupter, a dreamer, an outsider and outlier, radical, upsetter, the high priestess of Irish soul & punk, incredibly intelligent, ridiculously kind and so f*cking funny.
“I’m gonna miss her very much but feel totally privileged to have become her friend. At this minute my thoughts are with Sinéad’s family and her inner circle. Thank you Sinéad O Connor. You taught me so much. No Veteran Dies alone.”
The London Inner South Coroner’s Court said it was notified of O’Connor’s death on Wednesday and that “no medical cause of death was given”, reports Sarah Burns.
“The Coroner therefore directed an autopsy to be conducted,” it said. “The results of this may not be available for several weeks.
“The decision whether an inquest will be needed, will be decided when these results are known and submissions have been heard from the family.”
The Coroner’s Court said if an inquest is to be opened, the date of the “brief public hearing” would be provided on its website.
Irish Times readers have gotten in touch with their reaction to the news of O’Connor’s death. “Sinéad’s voice would penetrate your soul and never leave you. It was anger, revolt but also tenderness,” said Francesco Correale, from Naples, Italy.
“I loved her voice, her music and her song lyrics from the first moment I heard her, now many years ago. Away goes another piece of life, a woman and an artist who made you feel less lonely,” he added.
“In November 1989, the Velvet Revolution took place in Czechoslovakia, and without a single casualty, we got rid of the communist domination that had destroyed our lives for more than 40 years,” said Alena Kastnerova, from the Czech Republic.
“Then, on January 8th, 1990, Sinéad released the song Nothing Compares 2 U. An indescribably original, amazing and extraordinary girl with an indescribably beautiful voice fit right into that era. A time when everything was absolutely new, hopeful and original. It was a fantastic time that Sinéad O’Connor became a part of.”
RTÉ will be showing reruns of various interviews and performances from Sinéad O’Connor this weekend. On Saturday night, her performance at Vicar St, Dublin, recorded in 2002 will be shown at 11.15pm on RTÉ One. During the recording, O’Connor and her band performed tracks such as Molly Malone, My Lagan Love, Nothing Compares 2 U and Fire on Babylon.
On the RTÉ Player, an episode of The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne, featuring O’Connor, filmed in 2009 can be streamed here. O’Connor’s 2012 appearance on For One Night Only where she again meets with the former Late Late Show host can also be watched, as can O’Connor’s interview on the Tommy Tiernan Show in 2020.
On the radio, this weekend will see RTÉ Radio 1, 2FM and RTÉ Lyric FM all delve into their archives to broadcast previous interviews with O’Connor.
Irish Times journalist Una Mullally is keeping track of the various public gatherings set to take place in honour of O’Connor. Tonight at 5.30pm, mourners will meet at the Wall of Fame in Temple Bar while on Friday night, there will be another gathering at Penny Lane.
In London, an event held by the London Irish Centre at 8pm tonight has now sold out. Those who want to attend can join the waiting list for tickets here.
Shane MacGowan has taken his turn to share his memories of O’Connor. On Twitter, the Pogues singer said “Sinead, I love you and hope you are at peace.”
MacGowan’s wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, earlier wrote “We don’t really have words for this but we want to thank you Sinead for your love and your friendship and your compassion and your humour and your incredible music. We pray that you are at peace with your beautiful boy.”
Singers Imelda May and Christy Moore have also paid tribute to O’Connor. May called O’Connor “my dear friend, my mate my sister,” saiyng that she “can’t find the words yet” and that her heart is broken.
Musician Peter Gabriel has joined the growing list of those paying tribute to O’Connor. “Sinéad was an extraordinary talent,” wrote the former Genesis frontman on Twitter.
“She could move us with a candour and a passion with which so many people connected. The path she chose was always difficult and uncompromising but at every turn she would show her spirit and her courage. I feel lucky to have had the chance to work with her. - PG”
Irish DJ Annie Mac and comedian Aisling Bea have announced plans for a gathering to take place in honour of O’Connor at the London Irish Centre on Thursday evening. In a post on Instagram, Ms Bea asked people to “please come” along to the event in Camden. “Some of us will be singing/speaking,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, film director Neil Jordan, who is godfather to Sinead O’Connor’s youngest child, was the latest to add to the tributes for O’Connor.
”She died far too young,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One. The pair first met when Mr Jordan tried to facilitate an introduction to the singer for the actor Sean Penn, that did not happen, but the director and singer met afterwards in Dublin and became friends.
The last time they met was a month ago in Dalkey, where the singer had bought a small cottage. He was walking by and O’Connor was sitting outside smoking a cigarette, he recalled. They had a cup of coffee and talked about music.
“She was one of the most amazing voices that I’ve ever come across. She was remarkably intelligent and remarkably artistic and always made these extraordinary leaps that most of us don’t. So that’s why I would have loved to see more of her work,” he said.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin Daithí de Róiste has opened an online Book of Condolence for the citizens of Dublin to extend their sympathies to the family of O’Connor.
“On behalf of the people of Dublin, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to Sinéad’s family following her sudden death. The news has come to a shock to me as well as the millions of fans she had in Dublin and around the world,” he said.
Singer Declan O’Rourke described the death of O’Connor as “such a loss.” He told RTÉ radio’s News at One that she had been “outspoken” and an extraordinary singer. ”She exuded kindness and grace,” he said, recalling the first time he met her, when he was a 15 year old music student.
Actor Glenn Close paid tribute to the singer after O’Connor recorded a song for the film Albert Nobbs, in which Close played the lead.
“When we did Albert Nobbs, the composer and I wrote a song called Lay Your Head Down, and our greatest wish was that Sinead would record it ... and low and behold she said she would record it for us. We had no money, with her great generosity of heart she did it.
“I can’t imagine anyone singing it better. But also it speaks to what I’m feeling for her, hoping and praying that she has found peace,” Close said.
Jim Kerr, lead singer of the rock band Simple Minds, paid tribute to O’Connor, recalling first meeting her in the late 80s, “not so long after she had become a mother”.
“Living in London at the time, she had become friendly with friends of ours, resultantly they all visited together when we were having a kids party one sunny afternoon. Already an admirer by then, like the rest of the world I had fallen for the brilliance of her debut records,” he said.
“The thing I now recall mostly on meeting her that day, was the beauty of her soft spoken accent and the effect when she broke into what I can only describe as her 1,000 watt smile. Much later, Charlie Burchill and I were fortunate enough to witness that same smile many times over within the walls of our dressing room, when Simple Minds toured with Sinéad,” Kerr added.
Some stories of O’Connor’s anonymous acts of kindness have also begun to pour in from fans on social media.
RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes, who went to school with O’Connor between 1984 and 1985, said: “There was not one single person there who was not absolutely convinced, it almost didn’t need to be said, that this woman was going to be an international superstar.”
O’Connor was “so powerful, such an amazing performer” and was “always going to do something that amazing”, he said.
Singer Morgan McIntyre said O’Connor had “the most conviction of anyone I know”.
“I think she’s just one in a million ... She did not want fame. She wanted to make music, and she wanted to make a space where people could feel, and she could feel, and communicate hurt and love, and all the things that songs can do for people. That was her goal. I think she used her fame to speak on behalf of those who are oppressed.”
A statement from the Met Police in London said police were called at 11.18am on Wednesday, July 26th, to reports of an unresponsive woman at a residential address in the SE24 area, Herne Hill, in south London.
“Officers attended. A 56-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Next of kin have been notified,” the statement said.
The death is not being treated as suspicious. A file will be prepared for the coroner, police said.
On July 12th, O’Connor posted on her official Facebook page that she had moved back to London, was finishing an album and planned to release it early next year. The circumstances of her death remain unclear.
Author Sinead Gleeson has spoken of Sinead O’Connor’s bravery at speaking out about issues which others ignored.
“Only Sinead had the courage and the vehemence to speak up, to use her platform, to use her music to address lots of the terrible things that happened in this country and her history, often at a great price, often to much ridicule and derision. But that never stopped her,” Gleeson said.
“It was always like that and continued to be that until the last couple of years, she was always very forthright. She was always very vociferous in the things that were important to her, whether that was talking about contraception or abortion or refugees or race,” Ms Gleeson told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Musician Philip King, from the band Scullion, said the music community of Ireland is “bereft” at the news of O’Connor’s death.
“I think Ireland as a nation is depressed and deeply saddened from the news being released yesterday. There has been an outpouring of both grief and affection and love for Sinéad O’Connor, one of the world’s greatest ever singers, one of the world’s greatest ever artists,” he said.
O’Connor was a person “who would open the doors or tear down what was necessary to be torn down,” King said, adding: “she didn’t sing the song, the song sang her, like nobody else I have ever, ever seen”.
The singer’s death made the front pages in newspapers around the world, including the Guardian UK and the Spanish daily newspaper El País.
Dublin singer Imelda May shared a tribute to O’Connor on Twitter this morning, describing O’Connor as: “my dear friend, my mate, my sister”.
Hothouse Flowers musician and radio presenter Fiachna Ó Braonáin also paid tribute to Sinead O’Connor for her “incredible fearlessness”.
“She had an incredible intelligence as well. She was incredibly well-rounded and not afraid to speak her mind, as we all know. She was also gentle and shy and very funny,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“Her legacy is that she was right. She was right all those years ago. She was right as she saw and spoke about stuff that was going on that nobody else was talking about. And she highlighted them fearlessly and with a passion and the music as well.
“She paved the way so many ways for so many of our incredible female artists.”
The Irish Times has opened a form for readers to share their memories of O’Connor, what her music meant to you, your experience at her gigs or the importance of her defiance when she spoke out about things many people did not want to hear said.
Newsbrands, the representative body for national newspapers, shared images of the front pages of Ireland’s newspapers the morning after O’Connor’s death.
Fans shared their memories of O’Connor over the years, including a time in 2017 when the singer donated some of her clothes to the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI).
Another fan of O’Connor shared a story about the singer’s “shy and lovely” nature as she signed a guitar she sold from her I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss album.
The Late Late Show band director Jim Sheridan shared a clip of O’Connor singing Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ in 2010, saying: “It was off the back of the Ryan and Murphy reports and she felt like the country was finally getting to hear the truth of the years of silence and collusion by the Church in the abuse of children. It was unplanned, unrehearsed and from the heart. That was Sinead all over.”
On Thursday morning, Irish singer Mary Byrne also spoke of her sadness at the death of O’Connor. The two had met on a number of occasions, when they drank coffee and chatted about mental health and the music industry, Ms Byrne told Newstalk Breakfast.
“She was very controversial because, you know what? She was a lady. She was fabulous. She was hot. But by God, of course, she sang ... I loved her to bits. And I am very, very saddened to see another bright star gone out of the sky again,” Byrne said.
“She’s definitely ahead of her time. And she had no problems in saying what she felt. She was angry. She was angry at the system. She was angry at the way things are going in the world. So she just stood and she stood for what she believed in.”
Sinéad O’Connor “challenged” and helped to change Ireland, according to women’s and HIV groups in the country. The singer had a long history of activism, championing causes and sharing often controversial views – most notably when she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on US TV show Saturday Night Live in 1992 in protest at the Catholic Church child-abuse scandal.
Women’s Aid Ireland, which works to prevent and help the victims of domestic abuse, said she had a “fearless voice and courageous light”.
The organisation tweeted: “You truly challenged an Ireland, and a world, that stifled women, children and anyone who didn’t conform.
“Your power, your anger, your pain and fragility gave strength to many survivors to speak out.”
HIV Ireland described O’Connor as a “proud ally of people living with HIV and impacted by AIDS”.
Paying tribute on Twitter, the charity said: “A profoundly talented artist and a trailblazer in every sense. We remember her talent, her courage and her honesty. RIP.”
The charity’s MPOWER programme manager, Adam Shanley, who represents HIV Ireland on the National MSM Health Committee, tweeted a picture of the singer wearing a T-shirt supporting the organisation’s precursor, the Dublin Aids Alliance, on The Late Late Show in 1990.
He said she “showed huge support for people living with HIV” in what was “a very different Ireland then and now – more so with losing her”.
His thoughts were echoed by writer and Aids survivor Jason Reid. He tweeted: “Sinead O’Connor cared. In Ireland, Sinead publicly supported people with HIV/AIDS when many denigrated us.”
O’Connor had converted to Islam in 2018 and changed her name, offstage, to Shuhada Sadaqa. The voluntary organisation Muslim Sisters of Eire, which provides support for homeless people, said: “It’s with great sadness we just heard about the passing of our dear Sister Sinead. We send our deepest condolences to all her family and pray for strength in the very difficult time.”