Acclaimed Irish singer Sinead O’Connor dies aged 56

The Dublin performer, best known for her 1990 single Nothing Compares 2 U, is survived by three of her children

Irish singer Sinead O'Connor appears at the 31st Annual Grammy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1989. AP Photo
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Acclaimed Irish singer Sinead O’Connor has died at the age of 56.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinead,” her family said in a statement.

“Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to the star.

“Her music was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare,” Mr Varadkar said.

Her music was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin said O’Connor was one of Ireland’s greatest musical legends.

“Devastated to hear of the passing of Sinead O’Connor," the Tanaiste said on Twitter.

“One of our greatest musical icons, and someone deeply loved by the people of Ireland, and beyond.

“Our hearts go out to her children, her family, friends and all who knew and loved her.”

O’Connor was propelled to international stardom in 1990 with her version of Nothing Compares 2 U.

O’Connor made the ballad, written by Prince, her own and it topped the charts around the world.

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

The troubled musician said she would think of her mother as she sang.

A troubled life

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

One of five children, she 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, O'Conner was placed in a Magdalene asylum for shoplifting and truancy.

But her musical talents were discovered while she was there and she released her first critically acclaimed album, The Lion and the Cobra, in 1987.

Her recording of Nothing Compares 2 U earned O’Connor several 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, wrote songs for films and collaborated with other artists, but was also well-known for her controversial outbursts.

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

And the singer, who frequently spoke out about the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, 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.

O’Connor 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 later years, she said she was following the Sufi faith.

In 2014, she revealed she had joined Irish political party Sinn Fein 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.

O’Connor worried fans in August 2017 when she posted a video to Facebook in which she tearfully spoke about feeling “suicidal” because of her mental health issues.

She was married four times and spoke openly about suffering from mental health problems.

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

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

In 2012, O’Connor cancelled a planned tour, saying her doctor had told her to rest after a “very serious breakdown”.

And, in November 2015, she posted a message on Facebook saying she had taken an overdose at a hotel in Ireland.

The next month, she said she had been detained in a hospital for mental health evaluation.

O’Connor 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 January 2022, her son Shane, 17, was found dead after being reported missing two days previously.

Officers recovered his body in the Bray area of Wicklow after a huge search.

The singer described him as “the very light of my life” and said he had “decided to end his earthly struggle today and is now with God”.

After her son’s funeral, O’Connor posted a series of tweets in which she said she had “decided to follow my son” but later apologised and said she was being admitted to hospital.

She is survived by three children.


Irish President Michael Higgins said O’Connor had contributed to “the great achievements of Irish women”.

Mr Higgins paid tribute to the Dublin singer in a statement released on Wednesday evening.

“What Ireland has lost at such a relatively young age is 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,” he said.

“The way in which she was able to move across the different forms of the arts was a singular achievement, as was the way her voice went around the world and how it was received.

“Her accomplishments included a body of work for film through the production of perfectly chosen and widely acclaimed lyrics.

“Sinead O’Connor’s voice and delivery was in so many different ways original, extraordinary, and left one with a deep impression that to have accomplished all she did while carrying the burden which she did was a powerful achievement in its own way.

“Her contribution joins those great achievements of Irish women who contributed to our lives, its culture and its history in their own unique but unforgettable ways.

“May her spirit find the peace she sought in so many different ways.”

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said on Twitter: "Saddened at the news of Sinead O’Connor’s passing.

“Ireland has lost one of our most powerful and successful singer, songwriter and female artists.

“A big loss not least to her family and friends, but all her many followers across the world.”

Ireland has lost one of our most powerful and successful singer, songwriter and female artists
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill

British singer Alison Moyet said in a post on Twitter: “Heavy-hearted at the loss of Sinead O’Connor.

“Wanted to reach out to her often but didn’t. I remember her launch. Astounding presence. Voice that cracked stone with force and by increment.

“As beautiful as any girl around and never traded on that card. I loved that about her. Iconoclast.”

Irish band Aslan also originated from Dublin and collaborated with O’Connor on Up In Arms in 2001.

Aslan's lead singer Christy Dignam died in June.

A post on the band’s Facebook page read: “Two Legends taken from us so closely together … No words … Rest in Peace, Sinead.”

Irish mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor, who O’Connor once sang into the ring for a UFC fight in Las Vegas, wrote on Twitter: “The world has lost an artist with the voice of an Angel.

“Ireland has lost an iconic voice and one of our absolute finest, by a long shot. And I have lost a friend.

“Sinead’s music will live on and continue to inspire. Rest In Peace, Sinead, you are home with your son, I am sure.”

The lead singer of alternative rock band The Charlatans has referred to O’Connor as the “true embodiment of a punk spirit”.

“She did not compromise and that made her life more of a struggle," Tim Burgess tweeted.

“Hoping that she has found peace.”

Updated: July 27, 2023, 12:19 PM