Sinéad O’Connor Did Not Go Quietly

Nor should we.

Sara Benincasa
5 min readJul 27


Black and white photo of Sinead O’Connor in a jacket and jeans, wearing a white shirt with WEAR A CONDOM printed on it. By Kate Garner in 1986.
Photo by Kate Garner. It was used in a fictional commercial in a 1986 BBC special called “AIDS: The Last Chance.” Condom advertisements were still banned by the BBC at this time, the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Pope as well as the Church in Ireland continued to call condom usage a sin, a move that was harshly criticized by public health experts and likely led to the deaths of millions worldwide. Sinead O’Connor would go on to help raise money for HIV/AIDS charities as her own star rose.

I wanted to write something about Sinéad O’Connor later today, but felt I was at a loss for words. As I pause and turn that last sentence over in my mind, I realize I am not bereft of words but, perhaps, overly burdened by them. I shall attempt to explain further here.

I am sad, certainly. I am not gutted by her death, or devastated, but rather quietly certain that she lived a lot longer than many in her inner circle likely thought possible. One of her children died by suicide just last year. She wrote that she was lost without him. I believe she told the truth. I also believe it is folly to neatly tie one person’s death to another’s suicide, to say things like, “Now she is with him, where she wanted to be” or “She would have gone on if not for that loss.”

Hers was not an easy life, and there are a thousand reasons we may have lost her earlier than we did. That she lived to 56 is a testament to her ferocity and a willingness to fight on.

By her own admission, I do not imagine she always was an easy person to live with, or to love, and in this way I suppose many of us can likely see a bit of ourselves or our own family members in her, though we did not know her.

I do not know all of her music, though I certainly enjoyed much of it. This is not an elegy by a music fan, but by a faraway observer, a listener and, at times, a great admirer.

She helped save lives and she gave people hope. Our heroes are not always or often angels, though she happened to be born with the face of one.

How confused people were when confronted by her rage. How shocked and betrayed they felt when this porcelain doll with Precious Moments eyes opened her mouth to scream at the injustice of the monsters who raped and humiliated the people of her own country, and of so many other countries.

Why is she so angry? She’s so pretty. She’s so beautiful. Why did she do that to her hair? She could be a model. She could sell perfume, or clothes, or more records. She’s rich now, isn’t she? She must be. Why is she still so mad? She’s mental. She’s selfish. She could do so much more good if she were just nicer.



Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast.