Pirate Days in Dublin

My beautiful picture

A six part documentary by Eddie Bohan uses presenters from the last hours of transmission to explore “the nostalgia, feeling of sadness, joy and anticipation surrounding the shutdown.” Declan Meehan, Aidan Cooney, Walter Hegarty and Tracey Evans feature.

Aidan Cooney describes how anything could happen, as when his show was hijacked by an IRA man, a gun put to his head and he was forced to air a message to the general public. The intruder left and Aidan apologised to listeners but luckily Gardaí arrived promptly as they had been listening to the radio at the Garda station.

December 2013 saw the 25-year anniversary of the introduction of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1988 that shut down stations. Pirate radio was influenced in 1964 by Radio Caroline, broadcast from a ship off the Isle of Man that played pop music, a contrast to the sponsored programmes on RTÉ. Original pirate radio presenter Declan Meehan remembers, “a transmitter was the big thing at the time and having your own radio station in your wardrobe, with your friends, broadcasting to each other.”

Dublin 4 had its very own pirate radio station during Community Week from 1982 to 1989. Paul Reddy describes how, “everyone was tuned into Sandymount Radio to hear a running commentary or announcements of what would be happening the following day. Others were just standing patiently outside waiting to hear their request being played – your name being mentioned on the radio was pretty exciting stuff back then.”

The closure of pirate radio was so unpopular with the public that RTÉ recruited some pirate presenters including Dave Fanning, Ian Dempsey and Marty Whelan to bring an edge to the station. Declan Meehan describes, “the feeling of going from a crappy t-shirt and jeans to a suit, only Dave Fanning survived all that.” Presenters may have conformed in ways but undoubtedly some of the spirit of pirate radio crossed over to make Irish radio what it is today.

From the days of Sandymount Community Radio: Garret O’Callaghan, left, and below Dave Reddy and Charlie Sheehan with Suzanne Duffy.

By Leeza Kane