Belfast Telegraph

Sinead: always controversial but she's still incomparable

By Martina Devlin

I don't suppose many of us will ever understand the turbulent spirit that is Sinead O'Connor - but we can still salute her talent, courage and hopeful heart.

She wore that hopeful heart on her sleeve this week as she married husband number four, Barry Herridge, in Las Vegas. And the best of luck to her.

Besides, her taste is to be applauded - who wouldn't fancy exchanging vows in Las Vegas, preferably before an Elvis impersonator in a rhinestone jumpsuit?

Sinead is Ireland's best-known iconoclast, unafraid to march to a different beat to everyone else. A woman of inherent contradictions, she has always been consistent in one area: rejection of conformity.

Whatever about the mental health issues she has openly discussed, in her resistance to the status quo she shows wisdom. Being part of the herd is overrated. Conformity produces no major works of art, no scientific advances, no transcendence.

But Sinead's dissent from group-thinking leaves some people uncomfortable. Frank Sinatra was among those who felt threatened by her, growling he would "kick her ass" because she refused to allow the US national anthem be played before a concert.

Sinead always had strong views and was prepared to express them, even at the risk of alienating her audience. She hasn't been pummelled into submission by the beauty police; she doesn't do bunny girl and call it post-feminism.

And as for that liquid voice - regardless of whether you agree with the various stances she has taken, few could listen to those distinctive vocal chords unstirred.

Now, as to her recent quest for a man: crikey, she led with the chin there. She went on RTE's The Late Late Show, took herself off to Lisdoonvarna and blogged and tweeted about looking for love. And sex.

She even outlined a wish-list with her tongue firmly wedged in her cheek: no car-clampers, no hair gel, hairdryer or aftershave users and no Nigels or Brians.

Her ideal man had to be "very snugly, not just wham-bam" and have stubble - that was a non-negotiable. Oh, and he must like his mum. Speaking as a mother-of-four herself, it made perfect sense.

She promised special consideration would be given to Robert Downey Jnr, a condition betraying impeccable taste.

And now, a few months later, she's taken the plunge again. Not sensible, I suppose, but this lady doesn't do sensible.

It wasn't the most balanced behaviour in the world, nearly 20 years ago, when she tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II live on US television, generating a 'Holy Terror' headline in the New York Daily News. But she was right about the Vatican covering up sex abuse of children.

That was no publicity stunt. She risked her career for personal conviction. I'd prefer someone in the public eye, with the power to influence others, to have passionately held beliefs - whether or not I agree.

Many of today's female models are a disappointment: boob jobs, frozen faces and trout pouts trussed up to make ersatz women.

Sinead is flesh and blood. Slippery as an eel, maybe, and hard to pin down, with a host of issues she can't move past; but there's nothing fake about her.

You'd never get her demanding a picture be Photoshopped to enhance her looks.

Irrespective of what she comes out with - and even she couldn't possibly stand over all of it - those other women who try to hold back time, or starve their bodies into submission, or kid themselves they've bathed in the Fountain of Youth, are the ones with mental health issues.

While Sinead's life has been an open book, there are still some areas where we remain in the dark. Like is she still Mother Bernadette Mary, a priest with a breakaway Catholic group? Has the rage of youth mellowed, or is it simply hibernating? And will she stay in Bray? (Which always struck me as an unlikely base for her).

But other things are a given. We accept she will continue to make statements that leave us bewitched, bothered and bewildered. And we know that voice, which could send shivers down the spine of an invertebrate, remains in magnificent order.

Whether or not you and Barry make it to your silver wedding anniversary is irrelevant. As the rest of us wallow in gloom, at least you're still taking prompts from that hopeful heart of yours.

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