In 1992, Sinead O’Connor ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live as a protest against paedophilia in the Catholic Church and the complicity of the church hierarchy. It was viewed as an act of career suicide. The following day, steamrollers crushed hundreds of her CDs outside Rockefeller Center to huge cheers from protesters. On the next SNL, presenter Joe Pesci quipped that “if it had been my show, I would have gave her such a smack.”
A few days later, O’Connor was booed off the stage at a Bob Dylan Tribute in Madison Square Garden. (That last clip is particularly well worth watching, by the way, both for the virulence of the abuse directed towards her, and the courage with which she stands up to it.) It wasn’t just in American that she was dismissed as a crank. Lest we forget, in this episode of Father Ted she was parodied as a bonkers feminist making any number of preposterous allegations against the Catholic Church. (Among them, that the church kept a secret hoard of potatoes during the famine, which they hid in pillows and sold abroad at potato fairs… Okay, that’s still funny!)
It won’t have troubled her unduly, but in the interest of disclosure, I should admit to having myself written spoof articles for The Slate magazine in Dublin in which – following her shock, rapid-fire conversions to lesbianism, Rastafarianism and the Catholic priesthood – she outed herself as, amongst other things, the elusive mastermind behind the September 11th terror attacks. It was unanimous. We all thought she was nuts.
Well, she wasn’t nuts. In fact, even the most outlandish allegations O’Connor made against the Catholic Church eighteen years ago seem pretty tame in comparison to what we now know to have occurred. And in the wake of the most recent wave of revelations, which have implicated the current Pope, the US media seems belatedly to have acknowledged as much.
On Friday, she contributed this well written op-ed piece to the Washington Post (Damien Rice, take note!) and discussed her views with readers in this online Q&A. The same day, she spoke articulately about the abuse scandal in Ireland, via a dodgy laptop hookup, with Anderson Cooper on CNN.
But no one to date (that I’m aware of) has apologised to Sinead O’Connor for the ridicule heaped upon her, as a result of her having the courage to speak out on this issue long before it was fashionable to do so. So let me be the first. Sinead, I apologise. We were wrong. You were right. And you had more balls than anyone I’ve ever seen. In the words of one of our mutual heroes If it was a big, big tree, you were a small axe…