Sinead O’Connor on why she ripped up photo of pope on ‘SNL’


After years of speculation, Irish musician Sinéad O’Connor has revealed her rationale behind her infamous “Saturday Night Live” appearance in which she destroyed a photo of the pope. The “Trouble of the World” singer dropped the bombshell in her new memoir, “Rememberings,” which was excerpted this week by Rolling Stone.

The event occurred in October 1992, when the “Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home” singer shredded a pic of Pope John Paul II onstage while performing on “SNL.” The stunt got the Grammy winner exiled from NBC for life and also booed offstage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert a few weeks later, Rolling Stone reported.

At the time, O’Connor, now 54, said she had torn up the photo to protest sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church. However, she recently revealed that the story goes much deeper.

“My intention had always been to destroy my mother’s photo of the pope,” she writes. “It represented lies and liars and abuse. The type of people who kept these things were devils like my mother.”

Sinead O'Connor in June 1992 a few months before hosting "SNL."
Sinead O’Connor in June 1992 a few months before performing on “SNL.”
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O’Connor writes that she visited her mother’s home after her death and “took down from her bedroom wall the only photo she ever had up there, which was of Pope John Paul II.”

The performer explains that “it was taken when he visited Ireland in 1979.” She recounted how the pope had told the “young people of Ireland” that he loved them after making a show of kissing the ground at the Dublin airport, as if the flight had been “overly frightening.”

“What a load of claptrap,” the Roman Catholic-raised Muslim convert scoffs in the memoir. “Nobody loved us. Not even God. Sure, even our mothers and fathers couldn’t stand us.”

Sinead O'Connor's new memoir, "Rememberings," is out June 1.
Sinead O’Connor’s new memoir, “Rememberings,” is out June 1.
Getty Images

She says she kept the photo with her for years. “I never knew when or where or how I would destroy it, but destroy it I would when the right moment came,” she writes.

Prior to her “SNL” appearance, O’Connor had been reading accounts in Irish newspapers about children abused by priests who got off scot-free.

The photo-ripping stunt itself was reportedly inspired by a 1978 appearance by the Boomtown Rats on “Top of the Pops” in which singer Bob Geldof tore up a photo of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. The musician was reportedly commenting on how his band’s single “Rat Trap” kicked the duo’s “Summer Nights” out of the No. 1 spot after the “Grease” soundtrack cut had reigned there for seven weeks.

Almost 30 years on, O’Connor has no regrets over ripping the pope on camera.

“Everyone wants a pop star, see?” she writes. “But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame.”

This isn’t the only bombshell the musician divulges in her memoir. O’Connor spills the beans on a hellish incident in 1990, after she had a huge hit covering Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” The Purple One allegedly trapped her in his home and when she got away, chased her around a freeway while threatening to beat her.


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