BRAY (Ireland): Thousands gathered outside Sinead O’Connor’s former seaside home today to bid farewell to the outspoken Irish rock star, some singing along to hits blasted from a vintage Volkswagen camper van, others showering her hearse with flowers.
O’Connor, best known for the 1990 chart-topping hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” and her controversial but often prescient views on religion, sex and feminism, died on July 26 aged 56 after police found her unresponsive at an address in London.
Crowds gathered along the seafront at Bray, just south of Dublin, clapped and cheered as O’Connor’s coffin passed in a hearse. Driving ahead, the VW van was decked out with a rainbow flag and blared Bob Marley’s “Natural Mystic” from speakers secured to the roof.
“I think she had the courage to say a lot of things that we all felt,” said Gemma Byrne, 47, who took a 90-minute train from the town of Drogheda to pay her respects.
“She represented our transition from a very dark past into a hopeful future and I’m just here to say thanks for being with me along that journey, and for maybe putting words and expression on what I felt but didn’t quite know how to say.”
Two of Byrne’s friends held a large red flag reading “Thank You Sinead”. Others stood with buggies and dogs, some climbed up on walls to get a better view, and locals watched from balconies overlooking the strand.
One fan held a black-and-white photo of O’Connor with the words “Fight The Real Enemy”, the declaration the singer famously made after ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II during a 1992 television appearance on “Saturday Night Live”.
O’Connor’s music was played from the VW van outside her former home, which has become a focal point for fans since her death.
“Sinead loved living in Bray and the people in it,” her family said in a statement, inviting the public to gather before her private burial.
Irish president Michael D Higgins and prime minister Leo Varadkar joined O’Connor’s family at a private funeral service, state broadcaster RTE reported.
“With this procession, her family would like to acknowledge the outpouring of love for her from the people of County Wicklow and beyond, since she left to go to another place.”
Tiana Kelleher said she brought her four-year old son Leon to show him what the singer meant to the people of Ireland.
“Sinead O’Connor was a very sensitive soul but was very strong for others like her,” said Kelleher, 30, who moved to Dublin from New York with her husband Stephen last year.
“She spoke to something that everyone who has gone through some suffering can relate to.”