Dolores O’Riordan – the voice of Limerick


She wasn’t a friend of mine. I didn’t know her. Dolores dying makes me incredibly sad though.

I’ve always been wary of people grieving for celebrities. It seems intrusive, obscene and vaguely stalkerish.

But I can understand it. Musicians are prophets who vocalise the hopes and dreams and worries of their fans, with their words and music. But they are distant figures. Almost cartoons in their godlike glory. They are symbols of what we aspire to be. But they are strangers. You don’t get pissed off with them for forgetting take out the bins, or empty the dishwasher, or farting in bed. It’s more a relationship between a god and his devotees, or a cult leader and his fawning followers. It’s not a two-way human relationship. It can’t be.

Princess Diana couldn’t have known all those people wailing and gnashing their teeth over her demise in 1997. Elvis Presley had no responsibility towards the millions of people who saw him as ‘the King’. David Bowie may have inspired a generation to be rebels, but you’re not going to sit and drink a bag of cans in the park with him.

But these stars were just images. Mirages to the rest of us. When people start howling their grief over their passing, I would think to myself ‘I wonder if you are as concerned about your elderly neighbour?’

You can’t have a personal relationship with these people.

Except that sometimes you do.

Dolores O’Riordan was not a friend of mine. I was just a fan of hers and the Cranberries. I loved her voice, her melodies, her accent. She was a great rock star from my home town.

I was aware of the band’s existence back since they were called ‘The Cranberry Saw Us’. I was dumbfounded with shock and awe, at the age of eighteen, while working on a campsite in France, to read news about this local group who were storming up the charts. In America.


They seemed to be the harbingers of a better Ireland. Young, loud, rural, modern. And such beautiful, wistful songs, sung with such power and clarity by Dolores.

They might not have been the coolest band ever, which is a relief. Cool bands are forgotten very quickly. They don’t capture the sound of a generation in the manner that a mainstream band like the Beatles or ABBA does.

Dolores O’Riordan perhaps didn’t have the voice of a generation. But certainly for a subset of it, she did. She was the voice of my generation, from Limerick. The fact that she, and the band could soar to the stratosphere, opened up a vista of possibilities for us spotty Limerick teenagers. We were on the cusp of change. Ireland was belatedly arriving into the 20th century on social issues. This small woman, with her powerful voice was our siren.

Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?

I am happy to have seen the Cranberries live so many times. I am glad that her music will live forever

To hear that she had died so unexpectedly, and so young, at the age of only 46, feels so wrong. To check the Wikipedia page of the group and to see Dolores listed as a ‘former member’ of the group is heart-breaking. It feels personal.

Even though it isn’t personal – I didn’t know her.

But she was a great, big, shining star in the sky. She was our star.

Rest in peace Dolores – eternal queen of Limerick.

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