Full recording: Christian Community Radio (Dublin)

Photo by John Walsh

We have featured Christian Community Radio here before but this is the best quality recording of the station so far. By ‘quality’ we mean the strongest reception of the station, not the standard of audio which was probably among the worst of the pirate stations. Christian Community Radio was run from Merrion Square by Gerry O’Mahony, a Catholic solicitor opposed to the liberalisation of Irish society in the 1980s. The station began in 1985 on AM and FM but was forced off the air in 1987 after causing interference to the FM signal of BBC Radio in Dublin.

This recording from 90.2 FM is from 1755-1830 on the 25th of June 1985 and consists of roughly edited items including religious music, church bells, the Rosary at a local church and ‘joyful singing of our American Christian community’. Production standards are appalling as everything seems to have been recorded on a basic tape recorder with nothing more than a built-in microphone. There is no audio processing so levels are variable and breakthrough from what seems to be RTÉ Radio 2 can also be heard. O’Mahony announces that Christian Community Radio is to go off the air for two weeks in order to make improvements and repairs. However audio standards never got any better throughout the existence of this eccentric station.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.  

Full recording: Charisma Radio (Dublin)

Charisma Radio was a low-power station broadcasting from various locations in Dublin in 1985 and 1986. Our recording from 98.1 FM is from the 9th of April 1986 and includes announcements that the station broadcasts to the neighbouring areas of Ranelagh, Rathmines and Rathgar on the southside of the city. The Anoraks Ireland report of the 19th of April 1986 lists Charisma FM as an irregular station on 97.9 FM from Blackrock/Phibsboro. It operated from a top flat at 11 North Circular Road for a period but had in fact moved to Ranelagh by that time. Charisma on 98.1 pops up in the Anoraks UK Weekly Report from June 1986 but by October, Ranelagh Community Radio is being reported on the same frequency. This was Charisma under another name because RCR is listed by Anoraks Ireland in 1987 and again in 1988 at the same address: 19 Dunville Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin 6. There’s a scratchy RCR jingle below based on the original Royal County Radio package. Under either guise the station seems to have operated in the evenings only.

This recording of Charisma is an automated broadcast complete with periods of dead air. It begins with music and idents and after that is an American Baptist religious programme. Listeners are invited to write to the programme in Arkansas but that is followed by an announcement of Charisma’s Dublin address offering to forward letters to the US. Dublin had its own dedicated Christian pirate stations throughout the 1980s but American religious programmes popped up on smaller stations such as Charisma presumably for economic as much as for religious reasons.

One of the presenters on Charisma from North Circular Road was Colm O’Gorman, now Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, who remembers feeding the electricity meter to keep the station on air. Colm told us: ‘It played sermons on reel-to-reel as a revenue stream but all the DJs were gay men and played lots of high energy and house music. I always played Bronski Beat “It ain’t Necessarily So” after I had to put out one of the sermons!’

Reception is weak on the recording with plenty of interference but this is as the low-powered signal would have been heard on the northside of the city, well outside the target area. The recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. 

Aircheck: Christian Community Radio

St. Andrew’s Church, Westland Row where Christian Community Radio often recorded prayers. Photo credit: Wikipedia/DubhEire/CC0.

This is a recording of one of the more eccentric pirate stations in Dublin in the 1980s, Christian Community Radio which operated from the leafy Merrion Square district in the south city centre. Christian Community Radio was run by the Catholic solicitor Gerry O’Mahony who was a leading campaigner against the liberalisation of Irish society in the conservative 1980s. Anoraks UK first reported the station in November 1985 so we estimate that this recording is from around that time. It begins with a quick bandscan down the dial to 90.2 MHz FM, where Christian Community Radio could just about be picked up in our corner of the northeast of Dublin. O’Mahony can be heard leading prayers and then introducing the rosary from a city centre church with a large crowd providing the responses. Even allowing for the weak FM signal the sound quality is very poor but low production standards were one of the hallmarks of the station.

The recording is as much a reminder of the terrible technical standards of some of the pirates as it is of the socially conservative nature of Irish society during that time. Most of the Dublin pirates challenged that status quo but some like Christian Community Radio wanted to maintain it. An infamous row live on air between O’Mahony and Ireland’s foremost radio broadcaster Gay Byrne in 1987 hastened the station’s demise in October of that year.

Aircheck: Christian Community Radio

Dublin had a number of Catholic pirate radio stations during the 1980s. The Irish Christian Broadcasting Service (ICBS) broadcast mostly pre-recorded programmes on 1071 and later 981 kHz from Chapelizod from west Dublin. A more conservative outfit was Christian Community Radio operated by Catholic solicitor Gerry O’Mahony from Merrion Square in Dublin 2. O’Mahony was a leading campaigner against the liberalisation of Irish society in the 1980s and used his station to oppose gay rights, abortion and divorce. In 2008 he was banned by the Archbishop of Dublin from distributing leaflets in churches as part of a ‘prayer crusade’ against the Lisbon Treaty being debated at the time. Mr O’Mahony died that year aged 90.

Christian Community Radio is listed on 1512 kHz AM and 90.2 FM by Anoraks Ireland in November 1986. By July 1987, it was on 90.2 only. Sound quality and production standards were poor, the programmes consisting mostly of recordings of prayers and masses. The proximity of the Christian Community Radio frequency to a BBC Radio 1/2 transmitter on 90.1 MHz from Belfast prompted complaints from listeners and brought greater notoriety to the station. In October 1987 Gerry O’Mahony was interviewed on Ireland’s most-listened to radio programme, the Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ. He argued that the BBC signal was freak reception and even claimed brazenly that he had been licensed to broadcast. We’re not sure when Christian Community Radio closed down but there is no mention of the station in Anoraks Ireland lists from early 1988 and it is possible that the nationwide publicity provided by Gay Byrne sounded its death knell.