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Now she’s stuck with the bombastic rep, even though the entire anthem fracas, including Frank, was a somewhat specious (and lucrative) confection of a media that, as Sinéad will tell you, often treats artists in a brutal fashion. “With no regard for a person’s feelings,” she points out. “Artists, musicians, and people like that are treated like animals. A lot of times they behave like animals and deserve to be treated as such, but a lot of the time they are just treated as if they’re pieces of meat, with no feelings. People don’t care that things fuck them up.” Not a new problem, but Sinéad gets more, much more than her share of such lashings. At a delicate moment in her life, one journalist referred to Sinéad as “a loudmouthed little pregnant upstart,” a remark that still torments her. Why does she make people squirm so much? Why are so many people riled by her? “I think that I’ve been misunderstood,” she says. “I think that people are not used to dealing with someone who speaks exactly, directly, what’s on their mind. And they take offense because they’re not used to it.” Even if her anger comes out of her compassion, even if she means to be just, she’s got the ultimate PR problem: She doesn’t aim to please.
O’Connor at the 20th anniversary of the British embassy protests, 1989
Independent News and MediaGetty Images
“My mother always told me I was going to get into trouble for having a big mouth, and don’t forget I grew up in Ireland, where you’re brought up to have manners: If somebody says to you, ‘Is your dinner all right?’ and even if you think it’s the most disgusting dinner you ever had you say, ‘Oh, it’s lovely!’ I did that, too, but as far as something was unfair or I felt it was unfair even if I was wrong to think that, I would never sit there and tolerate it. I would never, I just didn’t see the point, it’d be completely ludicrous for me to do that, and so I would stick my nose into other people’s business; if somebody else was having a fight I’d go and help.”