'People look at you and see a product. They don’t see a soul, but an empty hole' - Barry Egan speaks to Dolores O’Riordan

Dolores O’Riordan gives Barry Egan her version of what happened on that flight, how she has broken up with her husband, Don, and how she has counselled people with her music

‘People look at you and see a product. They don’t see a soul, but an empty hole’

Barry Egan

Dolores O’Riordan’s arrest after she allegedly head-butted and spat at a garda after flight EI110 from New York at Shannon Airport last Monday could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the troubled star. It means, her worried family told me, she can finally get the help she so badly needs.

It doesn’t matter to them that she is a famous rock-star. All that matters to them is that she is clearly in need of help.

Dolores has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She broke up with her husband Don Burton in mid-September and has been living in New York, first in a hotel in Union Square and then in Trump Tower. She has not slept properly in two months and her moods are, at best, erratic.

Everyone around Dolores wants to see her come out of this dark place in her life — but it is a dark place she has been in, if truth be told, nearly all her life. She was raped at the age of eight for four years. A sex abuse victim is always a sex abuse victim.

Dolores, who I would call a friend, rang me on Friday morning and she wanted to talk. She gave me the address she was ringing from. At 3.50pm a dishevelled Dolores opened the door of a private house on a very secluded part of Adare village in County Limerick.

On the table was a bible with the pages held open by a flashlight. There was a picture of Pope John Paul above the fireplace. Essential oils and fragrances are placed in straight, ordered lines on the table, next to candles. “My life has no control,” she told me. “So I line them up to have control.”

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There are some plates with prawns, half eaten, on them. “I’m putting food in my mouth so I don’t get anorexia and all that again.” She looks frightfully thin. She is drinking wine and seems agitated.

I feel deeply sorry for her as well as deeply sad for her. I ask her several times if she is sure she wants to talk. She is adamant that she wants to talk.

Speaking publicly for the first time since Monday’s incident, Dolores recalls: “Apparently my mother came into the cell. I don’t remember. I had created a tortoise effect. I tucked myself in, under the blanket.”

I ask her, is it true that she was singing in the cell?

“I was singing in the cell. I was praying. I was meditating because I was freezing. I was black and blue. Look at me!” she lifts up her top and pulls aside her tights to show me the bruises on her back, arms and legs.

Dolores says she wore the mask on the plane because “stalkers” were following her in New York. She mentions John Lennon who was murdered by a stalker in New York.

I ask her about what happened on the plane. “It was very stressful. I am not used to being in a crowd like that. What happened was, people were scaring me. I was going into the corner and saying, ‘Please don’t touch me’. They said to me, ‘Do you think you are someone?’ I said: ‘You know who I am. You know I am the singer in the Cranberries’.”

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Dolores says she would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the Aer Lingus flight attendant, Carmel Coyne, whose foot she bruised on the flight.

“Carmel is lovely. I know Carmel a long time from flying over and back transatlantic since I had the little wee babies in the buggies. I really like her. She knows, for a fact, that it was an accident with my metal shoes. And there was bad people having too much booze roaring at me. And I backed up and I stood on her foot by an accident, like a child in the playground. I’m sorry, Carmel. You know I love you and if there is any way I can help you, I’ll be there for you.”

Dolores insists she was not drunk on the plane. “I had two glasses of wine with my meal. I ate dinner. Corn-fed chicken with some rice and vegetables and cheese after and then a glass of port, then off to sleep.

“That was the plan. I couldn’t sit down because they were roaring at me and shouting at me, these people. I don’t really care what people think.”

Last week Dolores’ mother Eileen told the Limerick Leader newspaper that her daughter is in a “vulnerable” place since splitting from Don Burton, her husband of 20 years.

Dolores says that her marriage to Don is over. (This was confirmed by a member of Dolores’ family.) “We have legally ­separated. It’s done on paper. So, ­legally, I am a single mom,” she says.

“It’s black and white. You only have one life.

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“You can’t be in a situation where you are not happy. It’s as simple as that. I have nothing bad to say about the man. We had a good 21 years. Ultimately it got to the point where it was not good any more. Time to move on. I feel 21 again. I feel like this is my second life.”

It is very clear to me and Dolores’ family that she needs to find help, but she can be stubborn.

“No, I’m fine,” she insists. “Don’t worry. I’m grand. This is my life. I’ll live it my way.

“I just block out the demons. I sing. I block them away. I put my pain into my music. I paint. I make my own videos. I direct myself. No one directs me any more. I am in charge of my destiny.

“People look at you and see a product. They don’t see a soul. They see an empty hole,” adds Dolores. I ask  her if she will go to a ­counsellor for help.

“Sure, I am a counsellor. Aren’t I counselling the world? Aren’t I after healing billions of people around the world?” she says, referring to her singing.

“I think you get to a point in life where you can’t really feel pain. You can’t feel it. You can sing like a bird and heal people.”

But you can’t heal yourself.

“No, you never find peace in this realm, but it’s okay, because when my dad went to the other side, he looks after me now better than he did in life. He is with me all the time.”