The ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ star and mum of four makes the revelations in her new book Rememberings and in an interview with The Guardian.
The 54-year-old describes her fear on the day her father moved out of the family home and her mother forced her and her siblings into the garden hut and locked them out of the house when Sinead was eight years old.
“I knelt on the ground in front of the gable wall and wailed up to the landing window to get her to let us into the house when it got dark,” she recalls.
“That is when I officially lost my mind and became afraid of the size of the sky. That’s why I’m agoraphobic. I find it difficult being outside. I don’t mind when it turns into black night, but once the hours of dusk come, I get very anxious.”
Shortly after her parents split up, her father (a structural engineer turned barrister) became only the second man in Ireland awarded custody of his children and a campaigner for the right to divorce.
In the book, in which she refused to print a picture of her mother, she recounts her physical and sexual abuse at her hands, including the times she ordered O’Connor to strip naked, lie on the floor with her arms and legs splayed open,
She then hit her repeatedly in her private parts. She is convinced her mother wanted to destroy her reproductive organs. “She had a thing about wanting me to be a boy. She didn’t want girls.”
Sinéad says it was her mother who forced her into thieving as a little girl. They would collect money in charity boxes, then Marie would steal all the donations – sometimes as much as £200 a night. “My mother was a kleptomaniac. She would visit houses that were for sale just so she could steal shit out of them. She would take money out of the church plate.
“My father was very well-off. When my mother died, we were living like she had no money, with no heat, no electricity, no hot water. The bitch dies and there’s 250 grand in the bank!”
O’Connor says she never wanted to steal, but then she found she was addicted to it, like her mother. “I became a kleptomaniac as well. My father took me on holiday with the rest of the kids when I was 13 or 14 and I stole a rug out of the hotel room. I’d steal shit for the sake of stealing it.”
She blames her mother for much of her turmoil in her youth.
“I think she was an evil person.” But she doesn’t believe it was her fault. “When I look at photos of the woman she was before she got married, she was a joyful, gleaming, happy young woman, and I feel something possessed her. It was the devil in her.”
She adds: “One evening some friends of my mother’s called round – she gave them dog food on toast and told them it was paté.”
Sinéad topped the charts in 1990 with her cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing compares 2 U’.
“I made 10 million quid on the second album [I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got] . I probably should have made more.“
I gave away half of it.” Why? “A priest told me: when you grow up and get a job, pay back the money you stole. So as soon as I got the money, I doled it out in various ways to different charities and people.”
Now a practising Muslim, she has recovered from getting psychiatric help.
“I’ve spent most of the time in the nuthouse. I’ve been practically living there for six years,” she reflects. “We alone get to call it the nuthouse – the patients.”