Sinéad O’Connor funeral: thousands say goodbye to ‘beloved daughter of Ireland’ in Bray

President, Taoiseach, Bob Geldof, Bono and the Edge attend singer’s private funeral service

Thousands of people turned out in Bray, Co Wicklow on Tuesday to pay tribute to singer Sinéad O’Connor, who was remembered as a “beloved daughter of Ireland” with “a poet’s heart”.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as well as Bob Geldof, U2′s Bono and the Edge, attended Ms O’Connor’s private funeral service.

Muslim funeral prayers were led by Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, and in a eulogy he shared online following the ceremony, Dr Al-Qadri said: “The more she sang and spoke about her own pain, as well as about the pervasive sins in society that she witnessed, the more her voice and her words resonated with listeners and touched their hearts. Sinéad never stopped her search to know God fully, exemplifying a life marked with a deep communion with God.”

He added: “I know that peoples of all faiths throughout the world will be praying for this beloved daughter of Ireland, among them will be countless Muslims praying for their sister in faith and humanity.”


Dr Umar Al-Qadri said Ms O’Connor was gifted with a voice that “moved a generation of young people, she could reduce listeners to tears by her otherworldly resonance”.

“One need only listen to her a cappella version of O Danny Boy or the traditional Irish tune Molly Malone to know this about her gift,” he said.

“Sinéad’s voice carried with it an undertone of hope, of finding one’s way home. The Irish people have long found solace in song from the sufferings of this lower abode, and Sinéad was no exception, and in sharing that solace, she brought joy to countless people the world over.”

Fans lined Strand Road from early this morning to remember Ms O’Connor, with the funeral cortege passing her former home, Montebello, around noon.

The hearse stopped outside Montebello for a number of minutes, where people threw flowers and sang the singer’s best-known song, Nothing Compares 2 U.

The cortege was led by a Garda escort and a Volkswagen Transporter which played Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Natural Mystic from its speakers while the hearse contained a number of floral tributes and a large picture of Ms O’Connor.

Survivors of mother and baby homes also gathered outside the former home of Ms O’Connor while family members and friends followed behind the hearse in cars.

A large number of flowers and cards were left outside the home as well as candles and tricolour flags.

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

“The unique contribution of Sinéad involved the experience of a great vulnerability combined with a superb, exceptional level of creativity that she chose to deliver through her voice, her music and her songs,” he said.

Irish musician Liam Ó Maonlaí was also among those gathered, and said Ms O’Connor “threw a line” to many people.

“People who felt they were the only type in the world, and they suddenly realised I’m not the only type in the world,” he said.

“She threw a line to those people just by singing a song…From the get go she was up against human pressure and she constantly was an alchemist transforming that into beauty.”

Colm Duffy, who owns and drove the Volkswagen transporter which led the cortege, said it was “an honour to be asked to do this”.

“My van’s first outing was to go and see Sinéad 10 years ago in Westport, so it’s [come] full circle,” he said.

In a statement on Sunday, Ms O’Connor’s family said people would have “an opportunity to pay their final respects” when her funeral cortege travelled through the town.

The route began at The Harbour Bar end of Strand Road and continued for just over one kilometre along the road to the opposite end of the seafront. A private burial took place afterwards.

At 12.30pm, after the cortege reached the end of the seafront, Irish radio stations agreed to play Nothing Compares 2 U in unison in tribute.

A giant installation honouring Sinéad O’Connor was recently unveiled on Bray Head. The project was a collaboration between creative agency, The Tenth Man and Mack Signs.

The Grammy-winning singer was found unresponsive by police at her southeast London home on July 26th, aged 56.

On RTÉ radio, Dr Al-Qadri reflected: “I am the person that initiated her into Islam and it is a great honour and privilege for me, something that I will always cherish, that I was also the person that led the prayer this morning.”

The funeral service had shown “the beautiful, diverse personality and diverse identity and the journey that she had. The journey of our sister Sinéad O’Connor was a journey full of trials, full of turbulences. But despite that, she always had faith in God. She always was a believer. And that is something that was reflected today at the beautiful ceremony.”

Handwritten notes left outside her former home thanked the singer for sharing her voice and her music.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times