Sinéad O’Connor, the Irish singer who died last Wednesday at the age of 56, was not only popular for her music but her outspokenness. On October 3, 1992, the songstress sparked outrage after she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II during her musical performance on the US TV show ‘Saturday Night Live’.
O’Connor, without informing the show’s producers or her publicist, gave out her brazen political message against the Catholic Church while delivering a rendition of Bob Marley’s 1976 song ‘War‘.
In ‘War’ the late Jamaican legend condemned the racism experienced by Black people worldwide.
Adopting the song’s lyrics, O’Connor took a photo of the Pope while singing the word “evil”. She ripped up the picture and threw the pieces at the camera after she was done singing.
O’Connor, who was protesting against the sexual abuse of children in the church that was being suppressed, ended her cover by saying: “Fight the real enemy!”
Her performance was met with total silence from the audience after show producer Lorne Michaels reportedly ordered the “Applause” sign in the studio to be turned off.
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She was thereafter at the receiving end of global criticism, even from the likes of Madonna and Frank Sinatra.
O’Connor’s protest may have stirred global outrage in 1992, but she was vindicated nearly a decade later after the Pope publicly acknowledged the decades-long abuse going on within the church. He also apologised for the sexual abuse of children by priests.
In her memoir titled ‘Rememberings’, O’Connor said contrary to popular opinion, her action did not destroy her career but rather it put her “back on the right track”.
“My intention had always been to destroy my mother’s photo of the pope. It represented lies and liars and abuse. The type of people who kept these things were devils like my mother,” she wrote.
“I never knew when or where or how I would destroy it, but destroy it I would when the right moment came. And with that in mind, I carefully brought it everywhere I lived from that day forward. Because nobody ever gave a [s—t] about the children of Ireland.”
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