Truth behind Sinead's heartrending and very public breakdown: Singer is in the midst of bitter legal battle with former lover and long-term manager after their business relationship broke down
- Sinead O'Connor posted video of her sobbing as she described mental illness
- Irish singer, 50, told how she was by herself and fighting to stay alive every day
- She is being sued by Fachtna O’Ceallaigh for defamation and breach of contract
The eyes are familiar. Big, haunting, filled with raw emotion and brimming with tears.
So is the distinctive hair — an aggressive buzz cut she shaved in a fit of rebellion in her 20s and which became part of her persona for the next 30 years. Other than that, Sinead O’Connor is almost unrecognisable.
These are pictures of a woman in the grip of mental illness. Heavily tattooed, her shaved hair now visibly grey, she appeared a broken woman when she filmed a video in a cheap room in a New Jersey Travelodge this week.
The eyes are familiar. Big, haunting, filled with raw emotion and brimming with tears. But these pictures of Sinead O'Connor are of a woman in the grip of mental illness
‘I’m fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting,’ she sobbed, ‘like all the millions and millions that I know I’m one of — to stay alive every day.’
Barely able to speak at times, she left countless fans who viewed the 12-minute clip in no doubt about the reasons behind her public outpouring.
‘I want everyone to know what it’s like, that’s why I’m making this video. Mental illness, it’s like drugs, it doesn’t give a s*** who you are, and, equally, what’s worse, it’s the stigma. It doesn’t give a s*** who you are.’
Perhaps the cruellest aspect of the illness that has dogged Sinead O’Connor in recent years is the loneliness she feels in a world which once feted her as brilliant and beautiful.
Having been catapulted to global stardom in 1990 by her heartrending performance of the ballad Nothing Compares 2 U, the 50-year-old singer has been reduced to feeling ‘invisible’.
On Facebook this week, highly distressed, she railed about suicidal thoughts and her belief she has been forsaken by those who should love her.
O'Connor sobbed into the camera: ‘I’m fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting, like all the millions and millions that I know I’m one of — to stay alive every day.’
This is not her first public cry for help. She posted a series of messages on Facebook from a Dublin hotel in 2015, saying: ‘Music is over for me. Music did this. It rendered me invisible. Murdered my soul.’ After claiming to have ‘taken an overdose’, she was later found safe by police and admitted to hospital.
‘I’m invisible. I don’t matter a shred to anyone,’ she said back then. ‘No one has come near me. I’ve died a million times already with the pain of it.’
But the truth about O’Connor’s latest online outburst is, perhaps predictably, more complex than might first meet the eye.
For it can be revealed that her breakdown comes against the backdrop of an extraordinarily bitter legal battle where she is being sued by a former lover — and long-term manager — for alleged defamation and breach of contract.
O'Connor is embroiled in a bitter legal batter with her former lover and long-term manager Fachtna O’Ceallaigh
The action is being taken in Ireland by Fachtna O’Ceallaigh, 70, who met O’Connor in the Eighties when she was 17 and steered her to stardom in a partnership that lasted until 2012.
He claims O’Connor terminated their business relationship without warning and defamed him in a letter published on her website and a fan’s website. He is seeking damages of around ¤500,000 (£452,000).
O’Connor denies the claims but, according to her lawyer, who appeared at a pre-trial hearing at Dublin High Court ten days ago, ill health has delayed her ability to defend herself.
Speaking about their romantic relationship in previous interviews, she described them both as ‘driven people’: ‘You can see that from what we achieved together,’ she said.
Fachtna O’Ceallaigh (left), 70, who met O’Connor in the Eighties when she was 17 and steered her to stardom in a partnership that lasted until 2012. Right, the singer performing in 1990
The couple broke up at the time of the release of Nothing Compares 2 U and the stunning close-ups of her crying in the video were attributed to her misery over the split.
In the past, O’Ceallaigh, who also managed U2 and Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats, has always been sympathetic to his muse.
‘The same thing that makes her great, that generates joy and fulfilment in her work, has also caused great pain and difficulty for her,’ he said.
‘It is incredibly painful to see her living her life the way she lives it sometimes.’
But the pair’s business split — which came, according to sources, via a ‘very colourful email from Sinead’ while on tour in Germany trying to reboot her career — changed things.
O’Connor’s bitter words leave little doubt about the toll mental illness has taken on her.
‘Suddenly all the people who are supposed to be loving you and taking care of you are treating you like s***. It’s a crime and it should not be acceptable to any man that knows me or claims to love me.’
Anyone who has followed the star’s turbulent life will know she’s prone to throwing wild accusations against those closest to her.
She’s spoken of ‘horrifying betrayals’ from family members as well as ‘appalling cruelty’.
O'Connor said she was living out of this Travelodge motel in Hackensack, New Jersey, USA
‘I’m a 5ft 4in f***ing woman wandering the world for two years by myself,’ she said this week. ‘Nobody in my f***ing life.’ A sad state of affairs for a woman who has been married four times and who has four children, Jake, 29, Roisin, 22, Shane, 13, and ten-year-old Yeshua.
The truth is that in recent years, O’Connor appears to have been at war with everyone around her, not just ex-lovers and relatives.
She was threatened with legal action by U.S. comedian Arsenio Hall after she wrongly accused him of supplying drugs to the late pop singer Prince and spiking her own drink years before.
She later apologised and Hall dropped his $5 million defamation law suit in February this year. At around the same time, she was forced to sell her seafront home in County Wicklow for ¤795,000 (£719,000) — a million less than she paid for it — after being named as a tax defaulter and slapped with a ¤160,000 (£144,000) bill.
However, she had not lived there for some time after spending much of the previous year in the U.S., where she continues to be based and where she has been receiving medical treatment for depression and cannabis addiction. She has also recently undergone treatment for kidney stones.
O'Connor (pictured in 2012) was diagnosed with bipolar disorder more than a decade ago
Her mental health issues have undoubtedly had an impact on her ability to care for her children over the years — for example, in her ongoing battle with Ireland’s child welfare agency Tusla, which took her 13-year-old son, Shane, into care after O’Connor expressed suicidal thoughts in 2015.
In a lengthy Facebook post three months ago, she warned Tusla they would ‘have a dead celebrity on their hands’ if they didn’t alter their decision about Shane, whose father is Irish musician Donal Lunny.
She threatened suicide if she wasn’t ‘unconditionally apologised to by the State,’ adding: ‘You have left me with nothing to lose. I CANNOT be what ANYONE, including my employers, my children, my family or friends, needs me to be if I am not restored to my child,’ she wrote.
Promising the agency she would become ‘the first Irish citizen to take their life in protest against Tusla on behalf of mentally-ill parents’, she fumed: ‘I would never have become so unwell if I had not been kept from my child.’
The singer-songwriter (pictured in 1990) has four children and has been married four times
Last year, in another Facebook rant, she hit out at her eldest son Jake, the result of her 1987 marriage to music producer John Reynolds, accusing him of being a ‘f***ing chauvinist bully like his grandfather’.
She claimed she had begged Jake to go to court and try to get custody of her son Shane to prevent him being taken into care.
O’Connor has spoken publicly about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003. It has become clear she is as fragile in real life as the elfin beauty, with the powerful voice, who captured the world’s heart. And she soon became as famous for her emotional outbursts as she was for her music.
Notably, in 1992, she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on American TV show, Saturday Night Live, to protest child abuse in the Catholic Church. In other incidents, she declared her support for Sinn Fein and came out as a lesbian in 2000, before retracting her comments.
O'Connor's friends appeared to have rallied around her, posting messages to social media that the star was 'surrounded by love' (Pictured, the star in 1990)
Then there are her four marriages, all of which have ended in heartache. After her first marriage to John Reynolds, who has described her as ‘a very emotional person’, she wed journalist Nick Sommerlad in 2001. They separated just 11 months later.
Her third marriage, to Australian musician Steve Cooney in 2010, lasted eight months, while her final marriage in 2011 to drug counsellor Barry Herridge in Las Vegas lasted 16 days.
After they split, she announced: ‘It should be illegal for me to get married again.’
Not surprisingly, much of the trauma she has evidently suffered as an adult has its roots in a troubled childhood.
Her parents separated when she was eight. She later claimed her mother, who was killed in 1985 in a car crash, was physically and sexually abusive although she has expressed forgiveness towards her, claiming ‘she just wasn’t well’.
‘Recovery from child abuse is a life’s work,’ she said during a 2007 appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. ‘You’re vulnerable, self-esteem wise. It’s like if you get a puppy from the pound who has had the s*** kicked out of it. You have to be careful how you deal with it.’
What seems clear is that O’Connor’s ‘life’s work’ is far from over.
Friends rallied round Sinead O'Connor today as one posted on Facebook on her behalf and said she was 'not suicidal'
Thankfully, her friends appear to have rallied around her. One posted a message on Facebook this week, saying ‘she is surrounded by love and receiving the best of care’.
And a post on O'Connor's Facebook page on Monday read: 'Hi everybody, I am posting at Sinead's request, to let everyone who loves her know she is safe, and she is not suicidal.'
'She is surrounded by love and receiving the best of care. She asked for this to be posted knowing you are concerned for her. I won't respond to any questions, so please understand. I hope this comforts those of you were concerned.'
But there is little doubt her fragility, once deemed so beautiful — and so marketable — has again taken on a darker, far more disturbing hue.
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