The turbulent mind of Sinead O’Connor

Sinead banner

There is little doubting the uniqueness of  Sinead O’Connor’s voice. When you listen to “Nothing compares to you” you can’t but fail to be moved by it, it gets you every time you hear this rousing song. But what about the singer? I had the pleasure to see her in concert in Paris a few years back. I sensed that there was something quite not right about Sinead, there was a palpable edginess to the concert.

In Ireland she is an icon and the press can’t get enough of her, while at the same time she is depicted as being a wild crazy woman, mentally unstable. She is not afraid to be extremely honest about her childhood and the physical and mental abuse she had suffered at the hands of her mother (although other members of her family dispute this). In her own words…“I never took time to recover from what had gone on when I was growing up, and to establish a sense of self,” she says, quietly but surely. “The big problem if you are a child abused is that you don’t really have a strong sense of your own identity. She obviously is struggling to come to terms with her childhood, but also the pressures of fame.  In July 2003 she said pertinently “I seek no longer to be a ‘famous’ person and instead I wish to have a normal life,” adding “Could people please afford me my privacy?”

Sometimes her so called “crazy antics” have been very public. Tearing up a picture of the pope on Saturday Night Live in America in 1992, was followed by coming stage at a tribute concert for Bob Dylan, wrapped a rastafarian prayer cloth around the microphone and sang an unaccompanied version of “War”, a musical rendition of a speech Haile Selassie made to the United Nations in 1963, to which Sinead added her own lyrics focusing on child abuse.  Her performance drew mixed reactions, some booing.

It seems like Madonna, on her Australian tour is going through  a Sinead type phase.

Ripping up a picture of the pope brought about an inevitable  backlash with leading Roman Catholics attacking the singer and urging the faithful not to buy her records. Her relationship with religion seems complex.  She raised many eye browses when it was revealed  she had been ordained as Mother Bernadette Marie by Bishop Michael Cox of the rebel Tridentine Order, at Lourdes. Irish and American newspapers went for Sinead viciously dubbing her “mad”, “deranged” and ” weird”.

Effecting Sinead deeply has been custody battles for her daughter, which even made her contemplate suicide. “I have made one suicide attempt in my life, and that was on my 33rd birthday, after a session in court that day where it was suggested that for the rest of my life I would only see my daughter once a month. I made a very serious suicide attempt, and I did almost die.” She seems dogged by this notion that she is mad.

Sinead O’Connor for many years was deemed to suffer from Bi Polar, which was later proved false. She announced “I do not in fact suffer from Bi Polar disorder and never did . . . and should never have been put on the medication . . . They are extremely debilitating drugs. Tiring to the extreme. Ironically, extremely depressing. They can cause suicidal or self-harm type thinking.” O’Connor said, in an interview in the Irish Mirror, “I’m delighted to be able to say that after ten years of poisoning myself with these drugs and having to live with the extremely difficult side-effects of them I can shortly begin the very, very slow indeed, process of getting them out of my system and my life and getting my life back.”

This poses the question could the constant cries by the media  that Sinead is crazy influence Doctors. Sinead went through a ten year period with different psychiatrists, none of them alluding the effects of the medication she was under.

Sinead seems to be making a constant cry for help. She seems horribly misrepresented by the press. If she is crazy it is a wonderful crazy.

Part of a St Patrick’s Day blog hop, read other articles by writers and bloggers.


Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter






Unfair Irish stereotyping?

Wild Irish


The word Hooligan is a word known to one and all, but what are its origins. If you refer the Oxford English Dictionary it came into the language in 1898, being, “the name of an Irish family in south-east London conspicuous for its ruffianism”. If you check a copy of The Daily News of July 26, 1898, it reports on social conditions in the areas, reporting : “It is no wonder that Hooligan gangs are bred in these vile byways.” A few weeks later, on August 22, another paper the Daily Graphic wrote scornfully “the avalanche of brutality which, under the name of ‘Hooliganism’ – has cast such a dire slur on the social records of South London”.

During the summer of 1898 most London newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph, Pall Mall Gazette and Westminster Gazette were referring to ‘Hooligan gangs’. There are other sources as to the origin of the word Hooligan. The Oxford English Dictionary also puts forward other claims such as a mishearing of the term “Hooley’s gang” although there is no evidence for this. It also says there was an Irish character called Hooligan of this period who appeared in the London comic magazine Funny Folk (1874-1894). Also it is claimed there was a popular music song about a rowdy Irish family called the Hooligans at this time. There are different points of view to the origins of the word Hooligan, but it seems to be linked to a family of Irish origins.

While teaching a class about American culture, specifically the early gangs in New York, it became apparent that the Irish were one of the main proponents of this culture. There is of course the Scorsese film, which apparently is a bit of an exaggeration, however Tyler Anbinder makes the point “The overall theme of the movie Scorsese gets exactly right: When the Irish first came to America they were persecuted and they literally did have to fight for their fair share of what America had to offer,”

Historian George Potter gave this damning assessment of the Irish.

You will scarcely ever find an Irishman dabbling in counterfeit money, or breaking into houses, or swindling; but if there is any fighting to be done, he is very apt to have a hand in it.” Even though Pat might “‘meet with a friend and for love knock him down,'” noted a Montreal paper, the fighting usually resulted from a sudden excitement, allowing there was “but little ‘malice prepense’ in his whole composition.” The Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati in 1853, saying that the “name of ‘Irish’ has become identified in the minds of many, with almost every species of outlawry,” distinguished the Irish vices as “not of a deep malignant nature,” arising rather from the “transient burst of undisciplined passion,” like “drunk, disorderly, fighting, etc., not like robbery, cheating, swindling, counterfeiting, slandering, calumniating, blasphemy, using obscene language
We can identify a strong Anti-Irish sentiment prevalent racism, oppression, bigotry, persecution, discrimination, hatred or fear of Irish people as an ethnic group or nation. The Irish have been harshly stereotyped.

Concerning the Irish and their love of alcohol, according to   the national charity Alcohol Action Ireland, Ireland is one of 26 nations in the European Union with the highest alcohol consumption rates per capita. In fact, the Irish drink about 20% more than the average European.

In addition to total consumption of alcohol, Irish drinkers also cross the line from casual drinkers to problem drinkers. It is estimated that over half of all Irish drinkers are problem drinkers. If 80% of the total adult population of 3.2 million people drink, that means that around 1.3 million Irish people have a drinking problem. Researchers further break down the demographics like this: 40% of female drinkers and 70% of male drinkers have a harmful patterns of drinking.

Part of a St Patrick’s Day blog hop, read other articles by writers and bloggers.


Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter


Why are there so many great Irish writers?

Famous Irish writers big

One area Ireland has made a big imprint is writing…why is this the case ?
Testimony to this is the fact that if you check the list of Nobel Prize winners since its inception, you’d discover that Ireland ranks eighth in terms of how many it has produced over the years.

You have to go back in time to discover the origins of Ireland’s propensity to create great scribes. Ireland can boast that it has one of the oldest forms of vernacular literature in the world, with only Greek or Latin rivaling it. The Irish could claim to be literate from the very earliest centuries, making use of a simple writing system called “Ogham” which was a way of communicating by way of inscriptions on little stone tablets. “Tain Bo Cuailnge” also known as “The Tain”, a story of a battle between the Queen Medb and her husband was written around the sixth century is widely regarded as one of the first major epics in literature and storytelling and is still published in various translations for a modern audience. The tale itself was written in classical old Irish and later into a more recognizable form of Gaelic called Middle Irish more readily understood for those wishing to keep the language alive.

Put aside the ancient roots of Irish literature, some might say it is the intervention of alcohol that has contributed a lot to Irish literature. Take James Joyce for example, accredited as being a “functioning alcoholic”, able to work and write to the best of his ability despite being known for being a heavy drinker (something that ran in the family, his father equally liked to drink). Joyce, seemingly quitea wild man, could be found in the streets, going on binges and getting in fights. It was only the “morning after” while recuperating with friends that he would set his mind to writing great literature.
Samuel Becket led a colorful life, his writing is known to express a bleak outlook on human life and culture while incorporating gallows humour and black comedy, Becket slurped red wine every night until the early hours of 5am, did his drinking habit impinge on his writing?

One undeniable fact is Ireland steeped in a rich cultural history which sets it apart from many others. Significantly it’s also a history that is chequered and turbulent continuously up to the present day. A close look at their history reveals they have been conquered and repressed and made to suffer at the hands of invading tribes, from Celts, the Angles and Saxons, followed by the Vikings who came to rape and pillage and finally the English left their mark on this country. All these incursions igniting ideas for meaningful literature, a culture desperately fighting back against perceived Imperial suppression.

Part of a St Patrick’s Day blog hop, read other articles by writers and bloggers.


Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter

Unlikely celebrities with Irish roots.

Famous people with Irish origins


The Irish have spread far and wide however some most unlikely celebrities have Irish blood in them.

Marlon Brand, such a powerhouse of an actor traces his Irish roots back to his maternal great-grandfather, Myles Gahan, who immigrated to the US from Ireland. Michael Fassbender, has been wowing cinema goers in recent times, with his powerful uncompromising performances. His mother, Adele, hails from County Antrim in Northern Ireland. As a child, he spent time in Killarney and even served as an altar boy. His Irish credentials couldn’t be stronger, according to family legend, his mom is the great-great niece of famed Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins.

There are some with less pure Irish blood, but none the less a bit of Irish in them. Elvis Presley was of English, Scottish, French, Irish, Dutch and Danish descent. Beyonce Knowles is of African American, African, French, Irish, and Native American descent. Kurt Cobain was of Irish, English, Scottish, and German descent. His ancestors emigrated from Tyrone in Northern Ireland in 1875. Researchers found them to have been shoemakers originally named Cobane from the village of Inishatieve, near Pomeroy. Apparently Cobain himself thought his family came from Cork, though.

I kind of suspected that Jim Morrison had some Irish blood, Jim being of English, Scottish, and Irish descent. Bruce Springsteen, an iconic American rocker, is of Italian, Dutch and Irish descent. “School’s Out” singer Alice Cooper is of French Huguenot, Sioux Native American, English, Scottish, and Irish descent. Meryl Streep, such a brilliant all round actress, has a bit of Irish in her. A researcher has claimed to have traced Streep’s great-great grandmother Grace Strain’s departure from Ireland to New York. Streep later named her daughter after the relative. Harrison Ford, known for being India Jones, amongst other things, also has an Irish father. You wouldn’t imagine Ben Stiller as being Irish, but in fact his mother is Irish Catholic. Look into Obama’s ancestry and you will find great-great-grandfather was an Irish immigrant who left for America in 1850.

Perhaps the most significant contributor to entertainment, Walt Disney’s great-grandfather, Arundel Elias Disney, emigrated to the New World from Gowran in Kilkenny, making Walt at Irishman by blood. Muhammed Ali’s great-grandfather was from Ennis in Clare. His name was Abe Grady and he emigrated to Kentucky in the 1860s.

Liverpool has a high intake of Irish immigrants, so it is no surprise The Beatles had Irish blood among them. By 1851 20% of Liverpool’s population was Irish. They’ve kept going there ever since and today 50% of Scousers claim Irish heritage.. McCartney’s maternal grandfather came from Monaghan and his paternal great-grandfather also hailed from Ireland. Lennon’s paternal grandfather was a member of a music group in Dublin. The notoriously private George Harrison came from an Irish Catholic family on his mother’s side, his maternal grandfather hailed from Wexford. Unusually for the time his grandparents never married. While Ringo Starr is often described as the most English Beatle, it is possible to trace one family line going back to County Mayo suggesting all four of The Beatles can be accurately described as having ancestral roots in Ireland (a claim made by Bono). John Lennon was eager to find out more about his family roots and hired genealogists during the height of his fame, in a quest to establish his roots. Unfortunately they failed him and as a result Lennon knew very little about his Irish heritage.

Part of a St Patrick’s Day blog hop, read other articles by writers and bloggers.


Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter

Irish legends, including the Black Nun


Ireland is a country that resonates with legends. Leprechauns, little green men who will give you gold at the end of their rainbow, or even as the keeper of Lucky Charms, immediately come to mind. Leprechauns are thought to be fairies who take on the form of old men, stand at about three feet high, wearing green or red suits, and notoriously have a substantial beard. They are typically mischievous creatures, preying on the unsuspecting. If you feel that you have had a string of bad luck, you may have a leprechaun to blame. Where might you come across such a creature? You need to make your way to Carlingford, in County Down, a place regularly cited as a spot where these little troublesome little men frequent.

Have you ever heard of a “changling” This is quite an obscure idea. If you believe the legend surrounding these creatures, they are the children of fairies who have been deformed. Given fairies seem to be shallow and won’t love these children no matter what, they would often sneak into town and swap out their changelings for human babies, who were more aesthetically pleasing. Changelings are generally miserable creatures who only experience joy when there is grief, pain, or destruction occurring.

If you fear you might in the company of a changling, what about the legend of the banshee? The banshee is basically a fairy messenger of death and of the underworld. When someone is at the point of death, she lets out a piercing wail rattling the souls of anyone hearing it. The banshee can take the form of an old haggard woman or by contrast a beautiful young woman. Regardless of her form if you see and hear her screams, you or someone in your family will die soon.

Anyone familiar with the town of Ballycastle will relate the legend of Julia McQuillan, also known as “The Black Nun”, who lived in the Bonamargy Friary in the 1600’s. The Friary still stands today in ruins. MacQuillen wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. Legend has it if you walk around the black nun’s grave 7 times clockwise and 7 times counterclockwise and then place a hand through the hole you can summon the ghost of the black nun. A worn Celtic cross (rounded with a hole in the centre) marks her grave at the west end of the main church. This woman was a gifted prophet who predicted that a red haired priest would come from far away to say mass in the church at Murlock and would drown the following day at a place called the Devils churn (Pan’s rock) near Ballycastle. The prediction came to pass, as red haired Father James McCann, drowned whilst swimming off Pan’s rock after saying mass at Murlock. Other revelations about the future included “The time would come when we wouldn’t know the difference between winter and summer except for the leaves on the trees. The infamous Black Nun also made similar prophesies to the Nostradamus ‘Yellow race” prophesies.


Check out other interesting articles on this St Patrick’s Day bloghop.

Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter

You gotta love the Irish !


The Irish seem to have left their imprint all over the world. I can claim to have a modicum of Irish blood, going back to a great grandmother (who was well dead by the time I was born). I have only spent a long weekend in Ireland, a quick trip with friends to Dublin, in February. I deeply recall sheets of icy cold rain tested our resistance to freezing Irish style weather. I have memories of a busker who made spontaneous lyrics about passersby.

However you don’t necessarily have to visit Ireland to feel the spirit of the Irish. For one thing their pubs seem to have spread far and wide. Sitting in a pub in Paris called Carrs, just before a rugby match, some musicians came in and started playing, people joining in, and singing along to traditional songs. I felt inexplicably roused by this unanticipated occurrence. Was the Irish part of me coming to the fore?

While living in Vienna, a friend got wind that a new Irish pub was about to open and what’s more this said pub was going offer free drinks…until ten o’clock. This of course was an invitation not to be missed. We trooped into the pub and by ten o’clock every part of our table was surrounded by drinks. However it transpired my friend had been misinformed and there was no such deadline for the free drinks…as it was free drinks the whole night long. We felt a bit foolish.

I have had two Irish girlfriends,  they could not have been more different in personality.  One was very happy go lucky, casual about life, didn’t want to get too attached…the other the absolute opposite, very intense and far too clingy.

Other Irish memories…each year there is the fete de la musique, and annually one of the events we would systematically go to was the music at The Irish College in Paris. The forecourt would resound to the sound of typical Irish musical instruments, some of the audience would be seated taking in the music in a leisurely way, while many at the front would be dancing like crazy.

No, you have got to love the Irish.

Check out other interesting articles on this St Patrick’s Day bloghop.



Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter