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Sinéad O’Connor by Ryan Tubridy: ‘She was rock’n’roll. I was the opposite’

Sinéad ‘was a magnificent, misunderstood, underestimated, beautiful soul full of divilment’

I’ll never understand how Sinéad and myself became friends. She was otherworldly, insanely rock’n’roll and anti-establishment, while I was pretty much the opposite of that. Her appearances on The Late Late Show were always “events” that veered from fun to provocative, challenging or inspiring depending on how she was feeling about herself, the country and the world on any given Friday.

There was always a pre-show smoke around the side of the building, an innocuous spot that Late Late Show house band MD Jim Sheridan and I renamed The Sinéad O’Connor Suite (she loved that). Then there was the reverence for her among the other guests and crew, who always knew that a Sinéad night was a special one. With every appearance on the Late Late, our unlikely friendship grew. Thoughtful text messages, bawdy WhatsApp memes and occasional phone calls became part of our “thing”.

On the first Late Late of the 2019 season (pre-Covid), we invited members of the Irish frontline services on, as a celebration of the best of Ireland. Sinéad was in her dressing room with her sister, and we were chatting away until she stopped and asked could she meet the frontline personnel, and so off we went to the studio and she shrank into herself, a little overwhelmed by the admiration and appreciation shown to her by the people she had wanted to admire and appreciate. Sinéad had that effect.

So often there is a disconnect between the media and the “people”. It’s hard to see it now in light of her death but Sinéad got a hard time for many years probably because she was misunderstood. In recent years I’ve taken to comparing her with the ancient Greek figure of Cassandra, who told everyone what was going to happen but was dismissed as a crank, only for her predictions to come true without fail. What a frustrating place to be and yet there she was, warning us about the myriad dangers that faced, and face, us as a society.

She told me that sometimes bad situations were really just visits from ‘God in a hoodie’ whereby you think you’re being mugged but there’s a higher purpose – beautifully Sinéad!

In recent months we had tea and Fig Rolls in her front garden while discussing our shared passion for American politics (she watched and read widely). Two weeks ago, I was in Clifden escaping from reality when my phone rang. It was Sinéad – “Jesus man, what the f**k is going on?” – and so began a very long chat about life and the universe.

She told me that sometimes bad situations were really just visits from “God in a hoodie” whereby you think you’re being mugged but there’s a higher purpose – beautifully Sinéad! I won’t go into more detail but she understood darkness, she understood loyalty, she understood family and she understood love. She offered me her spare room in the new flat if I needed a safe haven, but more importantly she offered kindness.

Sinéad will be many things to many readers of this paper but I knew a magnificent, misunderstood, underestimated, beautiful soul, full of divilment and goodness in a world gone mad. She was on a relentless search for peace. That odyssey ended last Wednesday and I pray to whatever God shines on her to guide her where she needs to be.

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