Sinead O'Connor: what Miley Cyrus should say next
EXCLUSIVE The singer tells Barry Egan why she's incensed about pop megastar Cyrus's tweets
Published 06/10/2013 | 05:00
IT'S a normal Friday afternoon for the O'Connor family in Bray, Co Wicklow. Nine-year-old Shane is playing soccer in the back garden with his mates. His big sister Roisin is in the front room, watching Breaking Bad. There is a Scalextric track on the floor, with little cars everywhere, and shoes, of various sizes, in the hallway. Shane and Roisin couldn't be happier.
Their pop star mother is upstairs in her bedroom in her dark glasses, which she refuses to take off.
"I'm too Valiumed," she smiles. (She has been at the dentist.) From behind the shades, one of the greatest singers this country – or any other – has ever produced is contemplating a week she would perhaps rather forget.
The week which started with the 46-year-old singer reaching out to 20-year-old US pop superstar Miley Cyrus ended in a very public quarrel.
Sinead's point – that the Wrecking Ball video, showing Cyrus erotically licking some choice construction equipment, was her "pimping" herself out and not empowering women – was clearly lost on the twerking young megastar.
Furthermore, when Cyrus publicly ridiculed her in a series of Twitter posts – with reference to actress Amanda Bynes, who has been undergoing psychiatric treatment – Sinead consulted her lawyers.
I ask Sinead if she could address Ms Cyrus directly now, what would she say to her?
"I would say I think it would be appropriate for her to communicate privately and publicly to Amanda Bynes and apologise to her for dragging her into something that had nothing to do with her and in such a nasty manner ," Sinead says, "to knock a woman for having an illness at a time when she was in hospital suffering from that illness."
"And," she continues, "then creating a situation where Amanda Bynes is now having to deal with some of the top magazines in the States slagging her off and referring to her as bizarre and incoherent because she sought help publicly.. . . I think that is a shitty thing to do to somebody at such a time."
The top American magazine also included Sinead in the reference to "bizarre and incoherent" behaviour.
"But when you read what I wrote there is nothing bizarre or incoherent," Sinead says, adding that she doesn't particularly care what people say about her but she was "horrified on behalf of Amanda that a completely innocent party would be dragged in such an horrible way which then would have horrible consequences for that innocent person. So if I was to say anything to Miley it would really be that she apologise to Amanda publicly and privately."
Despite Sinead's claim on RTE's Late Late Show on Friday night, the state of prolonged mutual hostility between her and Cyrus isn't likely to end yet, at least not amicably. According to reports, Cyrus was vowing to "diss" Sinead during her performance monologue on Saturday Night Live on American TV last night, which airs in the early hours Irish time.
I say the bigger issue all this throws up is that the global media have no right to mock someone because they have a mental illness.
"The world would not mock people who have physical illnesses in the same way the world mocks people who have mental illnesses. You wouldn't dismiss somebody on the grounds of 'you broken-legged idiot' or 'you cancerous idiot'. You wouldn't use someone's physical illness as a stick to beat them with," Sinead says. "To do that kind of thing creates an enormous stigma and that stigma creates a very dangerous silence."
"For anyone to be berated for publicly seeking a psychiatrist or a doctor or some kind of medical help is not acceptable. The world uses 'crazy' as a term of abuse.
"These are extremely irresponsible signals for magazines and Cyrus to send."
Sinead's son, Shane, is making too much noise, so she opens the window and asks him to be quiet for five minutes.
Sinead is always a great interview. She never censors or holds back. She doesn't know any other way. In October, 1988, she told me in New York for an interview for British music weekly New Musical Express that a) "it f**king disgusts me to see people like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston make themselves white so that MTV will play their videos" b) in reaction to a record producer saying "what problems?" when asked about South Africa's problems, she said: "Shoot the bastard!" and c) this about U2: "They f**king rule Dublin. There's not a band in Dublin who could get anywhere if they weren't in some way associated with U2."
During a three-hour-long, exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent at her home, she spoke with characteristic candour about her public conflict with Cyrus. She gets most angry when talking about the old tweets of hers that Cyrus posted online.
"These tweets are two years old, which is also what is a bit nasty about all of this, because they have been retweeted to make them look like that's my current medical condition. It it is actually very damaging because it is extremely hard to get work in the music industry when people feel you are in an active phase of mental f**king illness."
Cyrus also posted online the infamous picture from 1992 of Sinead tearing up the picture of the Pope live on American TV. Asked what she feels was Cyrus's motivation for posting that picture, Sinead answers: "For somebody to suggest that that's insanity or in any way invalid."
"I would counsel her to start reading church reports," Sinead says with a laugh, referring to the Catholic Church's history on child abuse. "I'm not inside the girl's head and I don't want to get into bitching about her. She is 20 years of age. I know what it is like to be 20 years of age and have a lot of people going on about, you know, 'you should have your ass kicked'," Sinead says, referring to Frank Sinatra's notorious comment in 1990 when Sinead refused at a New Jersey concert to perform if the The Star-Spangled Banner was played.
I ask her whether she will act – or has acted – on her legal threat over the old tweets of Sinead's Miley posted.
"My unfortunate experience is it has been extraordinarily hard for me to convince people to employ me since I left the tour because they needed assurance that I was not in an active phase of mental illness. The fact they were tweeted in a way to look like my current condition could interfere with me getting work and could be potentially career damaging," she says.
In term of her own mental health, Sinead – who was put on medication for bipolar disorder nearly 10 years ago – says she is now coming off her meds under supervision from a leading UK bipolar expert.
"I should never have been put on meds," she says.
"What happened was I went to a doctor five months after I had my son Shane out there," she smiles, pointing out the window to the garden below where he is noisily kicking a ball around with his pals.
"I got a bit blue. . .I was managing. But at the time something very traumatic happened – which I won't go into – and I became extraordinarily blue. I went to the doctor, as the song says, and I tell this dude I was depressed."
"And, as true as God, this is how my diagnosis came about: he rang up a particular hospital in Ireland and he said; 'I'm sitting with Sinead O'Connor in my office and she says she's depressed.' The guy on the end of the phone told him: 'Well, from what I read about her in the newspapers, I'd say she has bipolar disorder.'"
"I would probably have been suffering from a form of depression," she claims.
Sinead says it suited her to believe the diagnosis at the time that she was bipolar and as such she took her medication. Three years ago, she adds, she went to a hospital to get a second opinion. Sinead was told, she says, that she don't have bipolar disorder. She subsequently got two separate opinions – most recently at a hospital in London – on her condition. "I was told the same thing," she says.
In terms of coming off the medication, she says was warned that what happened to her two years ago when she became ill because she stopped the meds too quickly could happen again if she didn't come off the drugs slowly.
"These types of meds are very dangerous.You have to come off them incredibly slowly because they are dangerous in terms of how they act on your brain."
I ask her how she is now.
"My situation now is that I know it is safe. I would absolutely never encourage a person to come off meds without medical agreement and consultation."