In episode #6 of the Pirate.ie podcast, we analyse the politics and economics of Irish pirate radio from 1978-1988. The pirates emerged because of the political failure to develop diversity in radio and became a thorn in the side of the authorities, especially from the early 1980s with the arrival of high-powered, professional operators.
Many stations practised corporate social responsibility in an effort to appear respectable but once they began to attract advertising revenue away from RTÉ, they were raided or jammed. Political instability and ideological differences stymied the development of legislation to regulate the radio sector, with several failed radio bills in the 1980s.
In this episode, listen to Brian Greene and John Walsh explore the politics and economics of the era with the help of extracts from our archive including news programmes, interviews, commercial breaks and advertising promos. This discussion is based on our article published in 2020 in the Journal of Radio and Audio Media.
Raidió Luimní was one of the longest-serving pirates in the country, broadcasting from Limerick City from 1978 to 1988. It had a large following of loyal listeners in counties Limerick, Tipperary and Clare due to the eccentric broadcasting style of its owner, the late John ‘the Man’ Frawley. Raidió Luimní was a community station with a difference featuring all sorts of local characters and unusual programming. It was also one of the first stations to feature death notices, a tradition that continues on local radio today.
Raidió Luimní installed a new Irish-made transmitter on 1125 kHz in 1985, boosting its signal and increasing its listenership. The station closed down a week earlier than other the pirates at the end of 1988, leaving the air at 0130 on Christmas Eve. This recording is of the final half-hour of the station with Alf de Lacy who says a long goodbye to Raidió Luimní listeners and staff and even thanks local Gardaí for their hard work over Christmas! A few bars of Denis Allen’s song ‘Limerick, You’re a Lady’ are played and then the national anthem brings Raidió Luimní to the end of its colourful life.
The recording was made from 103 FM from 0100-0130 on 24th December 1988. We thank John Breslin for the donation.
Continuing with Part 3 of Leon Tipler’s documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’, we hear more from the Cork radio scene in 1983 and also learn about the Limerick pirates. The hour begins with a visit to the 10 kW South Coast Radio AM transmitter site in Cork in the company of John Lewis. That is followed by a visit to ERI and an interview with veteran broadcaster Don Allen. There is also a rare insight into the earliest days of the Cork pirates in an interview with Con McParland. Tipler then continues to Limerick where he calls into two local stations, Big L and Raidió Luimní. The episode concludes with interviews with Mike Richardson of Big L and the popular John ‘the Man’ Frawley of Raidió Luimní.
This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.
One of the longest-serving pirates in the country from 1978 to 1988, Raidió Luimní had many loyal listeners in its core area of Limerick, Clare and Tipperary due largely to the unique broadcasting style of its owner the late John ‘the Man’ Frawley. After installing a new AM transmitter on 1125 kHz in 1985, the signal could be heard further afield, adding to the station’s listenership and Frawley’s popularity.
Here’s another recording of John ‘the Man’ from the 5th and 6th of November 1984 featuring his quirky mixture of gossip, news and music which was unrivalled on Irish radio at the time or arguably since. In the first part of the recording, Frawley lends his support to the local campaign against the water tax in advance of a court case on November 6th. He attempted to enter politics himself, standing in the 1981 and February 1982 elections but polling poorly despite his popularity as a broadcaster.
The recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. You can hear more of the Limerick pirates here.
We’ve covered the Limerick scene regularly on this page as it had many notable pirates in the late 1970s and 1980s. One of the more memorable stations was Raidió Luimní run by the inimitable John ‘the Man’ Frawley (RIP) from 1978 to 1988.
This recording, courtesy of Ian Biggar, is of John the Man on his popular breakfast programme from 0734-0855 on the 20th of April 1983. The shorter recording below from the 17th of August 1981 is courtesy of Liam Byrne. You can hear plenty more about the Limerick pirates here.