In the weeks and months after Sinead O'Connor tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on live television, commentators in the media sought to explain the motives of her protest.Very few, however, made use of the traditional tools of journalism: interviews, research, and textual analysis.
In Ireland we see our people are manifesting the highest incidence in Europe of child abuse. The thing that helped me most was the 12-step group, the Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families. What happened to me is a direct result of what happened to my mother and what happened to her in her house and in school.
This is a direct result of the fact that they're not in contact with their history as Irish people and the fact that in the schools, the priests have been beating the shit out of the children for years and sexually abusing them. By now, the history of sexual and physical abuse in the Irish Catholic school system is familiar.
This is the example that's been set for the people of Ireland. As late as 2007, the Church controlled 93% of the schools in Ireland, giving most children no hope of escaping the often-sadistic system.
De Curtis and Roeper provided their own speculative reasons for O'Connor's protest plucked from American headlines at the time, like access to contraception, abortion, and the Troubles.
Almost entirely overlooked in the controversy was the text of O'Connor's protest—a Bob Marley song, "War," with lyrics taken from a speech by Haile Selassie.
O'Connor had replaced out-of-date lyrics about apartheid African regimes with the phrase "child abuse, yeah," repeated twice with spine-stiffening venom.Also inexplicably ignored were O'Connor's own words, in an interview published in Time a month after her SNL appearance: It's not the man, obviously—it's the office and the symbol of the organization that he represents... I went to school every day covered in bruises, boils, sties and face welts, you name it. Naturally I was very angered by the whole thing, and I had to find out why it happened...On the left, Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times celebrated Sinead for providing "a moment of truly great television." He assumed offhand that she was protesting the Vatican's positions on women's rights or the ongoing violence in Northern Ireland, but he focused his praise on O'Connor's acumen as an entertainer.Sinead O'Connor, meanwhile, managed the seemingly insurmountable task of pushing the bondage-clad Madonna out of the headlines with her bizarre attacks on what she quaintly and archaically refers to as the Holy Roman Empire.The Catholic church is a perfectly legitimate target, particularly for an Irish single mother who grew up in an impoverished country in which Catholicism is virtually a state religion, contraception is discouraged and abortion is banned.But is O'Connor's aim to educate people about her point of view or to alienate them and insult their beliefs—as she did when she ripped up a picture of the pope on Saturday Night Live, ensuring that they will never take her seriously?