Fans bid seaside farewell to Sinead O'Connor

PAUL FAITH/ AFP

Thousands gathered outside Sinead O'Connor's former seaside home on Tuesday to bid farewell to the Irish rock star.

O'Connor died on July 26 aged 56 after police found her unresponsive at an address in London.

Crowds gathered along the seafront at Bray, just south of Dublin, clapped and cheered as O'Connor's coffin passed in a hearse.

Driving ahead, a vintage camper van was decked out with a rainbow flag and blared Bob Marley's "Natural Mystic" from speakers secured to the roof.

"I think she had the courage to say a lot of things that we all felt," said Gemma Byrne, 47, who took a 90-minute train from the town of Drogheda to pay her respects.

"She represented our transition from a very dark past into a hopeful future and I'm just here to say thanks for being with me along that journey, and for maybe putting words and expression on what I felt but didn't quite know how to say."

Two of Byrne's friends held a large red flag reading "Thank You Sinead." Others stood with buggies and dogs, some climbed up on walls to get a better view, and locals watched from balconies overlooking the strand.

One fan held a black-and-white photo of O'Connor with the words "Fight The Real Enemy," the declaration the singer famously made after ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II during a 1992 television appearance on "Saturday Night Live."

O'Connor's music was played from the VW van outside her former home, which has become a focal point for fans since her death.

"Sinead loved living in Bray and the people in it," her family said a statement inviting the public to gather before her private burial.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins and prime minister Leo Varadkar joined O'Connor's family at a private funeral service, state broadcaster RTE reported.

"With this procession, her family would like to acknowledge the outpouring of love for her from the people of Co. Wicklow and beyond, since she left to go to another place."

Tiana Kelleher said she brought her 4-year old son Leon to show him what the singer meant to the people of Ireland.

"Sinead O'Connor was a very sensitive soul but was very strong for other like her," said Kelleher, 30, who moved to Dublin from New York with her husband Stephen last year.

"She spoke to something that everyone who has gone through some suffering can relate to."

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