Sinéad O’Connor ‘brought joy to countless people’

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A black and white photo of a young Sinead O'Connor sits in front of her coffin, surrounded by flowers, inside a hearseReuters

At a glance

  • There was a private service before a procession passed along the seafront in Bray, County Wicklow

  • The Irish singer and activist lived in Bray for 15 years

  • People gathered in the town from early in the morning

Thousands of people lined the streets of Bray in County Wicklow to pay their respects to Irish singer and activist Sinéad O’Connor.

People cheered, clapped and threw flowers as the funeral cortege passed by.

One woman told BBC News NI “she was more than just a singer, she was a trailblazer”.

The 56-year-old was best known for her 1990 single Nothing Compares 2 U, which catapulted her to worldwide fame.

O’Connor died at her home in London in July.

The cause of death has not yet been made public but police say it was not suspicious.

A hearse passes through a crowd

PA Media

A private funeral service took place on Tuesday morning with the cortege then passing through the seaside town.

Choruses of Nothing Compares 2 U broke out among pockets of the crowd which lined both sides of Strand Road as the cortege passed.

Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina attended the service, as did Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar.

Mr Higgins said the outpouring of grief and appreciation of the life and work of O’Connor “demonstrates the profound impact which she had on the Irish people”.

Musician Bob Geldof was also among the mourners.

The cortege was led by a VW camper van, playing music from four large speakers on the roof.

The precession stopped briefly outside the singer’s home, where it was met with a rapturous round of applause.

Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Natural Mystic was played from the camper van.

It is the opening track on the reggae superstar’s landmark 1977 album Exodus, and he was one of O’Connor’s heroes.

She had the colours of the Rastafarian flag painted on the corner of her house in the town, and released an album of reggae covers in 2005.

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The route began at the Harbour Bar end of Strand Road, where O’Connor lived for 15 years, and then along the seafront.

In a statement, O’Connor’s family said she “loved living in Bray and the people in it”.

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, the Islamic scholar and chief imam at the Islamic Centre of Ireland, delivered the eulogy at the funeral.

“Gifted with a voice that moved a generation of young people, she could reduce listeners to tears by her otherworldly resonance,” he said.

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

“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.

“Just as Sinéad O’Connor brought diverse souls together through her art, so have you orchestrated a symphony of unity during her final journey.”

A woman kneels near tributes outside late Irish singer Sinead O'Connor's former home

Reuters

A tribute to O’Connor was unveiled on a cliff close to Bray over the weekend with large, white letters spelling out “Éire [Ireland] loves Sinéad”.

It was designed by Dublin-based creative agency The Tenth Man.

The agency’s creative director, Richard Seabrooke, told BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster programme that the news of O’Connor’s death hit him “like a tonne of bricks”.

Mr Seabrooke said he felt it was important “that Ireland got to say goodbye” to the singer and also to show O’Connor’s family that they weren’t on their own.

“Her story is intertwined with ours over the last couple of decades,” he said.

“To see how much she has helped change this country and see how much this country has changed because of Sinéad… we just felt like it needed to be said and luckily a couple of people agreed to go up a cliff at dawn time.”

White lettering spells out "Eire loves Sinéad" on the top of a cliff close to Bray

The Tenth Man

‘Today I’m broken’

Maureen Sullivan travelled to Bray from Carlow to pay her respects.

Like O’Connor, she spent time in one of Ireland’s notorious Magdalene laundries – institutions run by Catholic Church where thousands of women and girls were forced to do unpaid, manual labour between 1922 and 1996.

Many survivors have decribed suffering severe mental and physical abuse and the church and Irish government ultimately apologised for their treatment.

“She spoke out for us all. I’m just heartbroken and I think it was terrible the way she was treated in life because all she was doing was speaking the truth, and she was speaking out against people that was abusing children, and paedophiles, and I think that was so important,” Ms Sullivan said.

“I’m just so sad today, I’m broken.

“She had such a tough childhood herself and she was in the Magdalene laundry as well, so she knew what we suffered, she knew what we went through.”

‘She is very important to me’

Isabelle Ferrer outside outside O'Connor's former Bray home

Isabelle Ferrer travelled to Bray from Dijon in France.

“She was my favourite singer ever,” she told BBC News NI outside O’Connor’s former home on Tuesday morning.

“Representing women, she was far ahead of her time, a long ago.”

She has a tattoo of O’Connor’s autograph.

While Ms Ferrer never got to see her favourite singer in concert, she felt it was important to say her final goodbye in person.

“I thought maybe I would see her because she was doing a new album, in London, but I knew her. I knew her life. She is very important to me,” she said.

“It’s so weird that feeling because I’m not her friend but it feels like I am.

“I think there is something about her soul, something about her.”

‘I wanted to let her know she was loved’

Pauline Scullion

For Pauline Scullion, O’Connor’s music helped her through some of the darkest moments of her life.

She travelled to Bray from Bellaghy, County Londonderry, with her partner Shane Hughes.

“Sinead has been a very important part of our lives since we were in our 20s and I just wanted to pay my respects to her,” she said.

“I wanted to let her know that she was loved, respected.

“She meant an awful lot to me. It’s just really sad that she didn’t realise how much she meant to so many people.

“I hope that us being here today can sort of show her family how much she meant.”

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