Northern Ireland

Sinéad O’Connor died of a ‘broken heart’, Belfast musician David Holmes says on new documentary on late singer

Documentary airs on Monday night on RTE, six months after the singer’s death in London

Irish singer Sinead O’Connor was pronounced dead after being found ‘unresponsive’ at her south London home
Sinéad O'Connor was found dead at her London home in July (Brian Lawless/PA)

Sinéad O’Connor died of a “broken heart”, still mourning the death by suicide of her teenage son Shane, Belfast musician David Holmes believes.

The 56-year-old Dublin singer, the subject of a new documentary airing on Monday night on RTÉ, died in London in July,18 months after 17-year-old Shane passed away.

Along with the Mr Holmes, contributors to SINÉAD Include Christy Moore, critic Bonnie Greer, Imelda May, British film director, DJ and musician Don Letts, and Sinead’s long time friend BP Fallon.

David Holmes
David Holmes David Holmes

Mr Holmes, who was collaborating with Ms O’Connor on her final album, told the film makers: “Even though ­Sinead was this incredibly resilient survivor, I totally believe that people can die of a broken heart.”

The Belfast musician reveals on SINÉAD how they met in 2018 at the 60th birthday party for the late Pogues front man Shane MacGowan at Dublin’s National Concert Hall.

“I just stopped and introduced myself and said ‘my name is David Holmes, you probably have no idea what I do or anything about me but I would love to make an album with you about healing,” Mr Holmes says, adding she asked him to send her some music.

“At that moment wasn’t a good time for Sinead, everybody knows she had mental health issues. I needed healing myself. I was going through my own experience. It’s amazing what the right song or piece of music can do.”

Mr Holmes, who recorded nine tracks with the singer, adds: “It was like a lottery with her and going on this journey over the period of five years to create what would become her final album.”

But he remembers fondly one session at his home studio in Belfast.

David Holmes has shared memories of the 'magical' experience he had making Sinead O'Connor's last album. Pictures by PA
ictures by PA David Holmes worked with Sinead O'Connor on her last album. Pictures by PA

He remembers: “Sinead rang the doorbell at 9am on the button and said ‘I’ve been sitting in your driveway since 5am, I was so excited about recording this vocal’.

“I set up the microphone, put the headphones on, hit record and she just did it in one take, and it was like, ‘wow!’.”

The documentary details Ms O’Connor’s life story, from her childhood, including time in a reform school and a turbulent relationship with her mother, to the rise to world wide prominence in the eighties and nineties.

There were controversies, particularly in the US where she barred the national anthem being played before gigs and her ripping up of a picture of the Pope on network television. This prompted a backlash involving vitriol and threats.

Christy Moore will be taking to the stage in Belfast next year. Picture by PA
Sinead O'Connor had a rebel heart, says Christy Moore

But broadly the view of the contributors to the programme is that she was ahead of her time in her thinking with her protests against powerful institutions, a brave and defiant woman.

Christy Moore says: “She had a rebel heart, a rebel soul. She wasn’t a mainstream girl.”

SINÉAD airs on Monday, 9:35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player.