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Sinéad O'Connor (1966-2023): Unreleased »Magdalene Song«

Photo: Andrew Chin / Getty Images

In the obituaries for Sinéad O'Connor, who was found dead in London on July 26, the scene was rarely missing when the singer tore up an image of the Pope at the height of her commercial success in "Saturday Night Live". The gesture earned her the rejection of many Catholics in 1992.

But hardly anyone at the time wanted to hear about O'Connor's own experiences in Catholic care. As a 14-year-old, she was sent to a home run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Dublin as a "problem child". She experienced the home as a "prison", where she had to wash the robes of the priests without payment, among other things.

The institution was one of the so-called Magdalene homes, which the Catholic Church ran for "fallen women". It was not until 1996 that the last home of its kind in Ireland was closed; In 2013, the Irish government apologised for its involvement in the system.

Emotional finale

In a six-part drama series, the BBC has now commemorated the "Magdalene Laundries": "The Woman in the Wall". The main character Lorna, played by Ruth Wilson (»The Affair«), is traumatized; as a teenager, her newborn baby was taken away in a convent.

On Sunday evening, the last episode of »The Woman in the Wall« was broadcast on British television – with a particularly emotional moment: »The Magdalene Song«, a previously unreleased title by Sinéad O'Connor, was heard. In the first half, O'Connor's voice can be heard solo, singing about the pain of a mother who has lost a child. In the second part, with orchestral accompaniment, she celebrates her will to survive.

While Sinéad O'Connor was bought a guitar by a nun during her time in the Catholic home, she also witnessed two or three nuns snatching her baby out of a young friend's arms. O'Connor reported on this in an open letter she sent to the Irish Post in 2013. In January 2022, Sinéad O'Connor made the death of her 17-year-old son Shane public.

Posthumous album release uncertain

Northern Irish music producer David Holmes, who has been working with Sinéad O'Connor on her eleventh studio album in recent years, told the Guardian that O'Connor had released the song before filming on "The Woman in the Wall" had begun. When the producers heard it, they were thrilled to have gotten something so strong. We all thought the only conceivable place for the song would be at the end of the series," Holmes said.

David Holmes very much regrets that the singer, who died at the age of 56, could no longer see the series: "She would have been proud of it". Whether the complete album, which O'Connor wanted to give the title "No Veteran Dies Alone", will be released posthumously, is in the hands of their descendants, according to the Guardian.