Pirate Pioneers: Radio Empathy from 1973

Pirate Pioneers: Radio Empathy from 1973
Radio Empathy QSL card from 1973 (courtesy of John Dowling).

Late summer of 1972 was a busy period for pirate radio in Dublin. Kieran Murray remembered one particular day in September in the first edition of his FRC Ireland Newsletter.

Pirate Pioneers: Radio Empathy from 1973

Of course, such increased activity prompted a proportionate response from the P&T which culminated in the raid on Radio Milinda on December 17th. This pretty much silenced all the free radio stations in the city with the exception of one. Radio Empathy commenced broadcasts in early 1973 from the Churchtown area. The station operated on Sunday afternoons as well as some late-night transmissions on 1378 kHz. Station operator was Ed McDowell (Eoin McDonagh) who was also the main presenter on the station. Regular late night Saturday and Sunday afternoon transmissions continued every week with a power of around 100 watts. The station pioneered the use of FM in the city with broadcasts around 98 MHz.

With such a regular service it was only a matter of time before the P&T took action, which they did on April 4th 1974. The transmitter and studio equipment was confiscated. The resulting court case on October 4th 1974 was reported in the Irish Radio Movement’s Medium newsletter.

Pirate Pioneers: Radio Empathy from 1973
Pirate Pioneers: Radio Empathy from 1973

Ed McDowell would go to to found Capitol Radio which broadcast for the latter part of 1975 and again for three years from 1978. The recording above features Radio Empathy signing off one Sunday in 1973 or 1974 with Ed McDowell. 222 metres is announced which corresponds to 1350 kHz although presumably the actual frequency was around 1378 kHz. There were obviously some technical problems that day judging by the audio. Thanks to Ian Biggar for the text, Roger Lloyd for another gem of a recording and John Dowling for the QSL card, which was for daytime reception in County Carlow.

That concludes our mini-series on the pirate pioneers of the Dublin radio scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s, without whom the 1980s boom would never have happened. Thanks again to Ian Biggar for supplying much of the material and to all others who contributed recordings, images and information.

Radio Dublin station news from 1991

Radio Dublin station news from 1991
Radio Dublin car sticker from the mid-1980s (courtesy of DX Archive).

Radio Dublin’s weekly Station News was normally delivered by its owner Eamonn Cooke but on Sunday 17th February 1991, station manager Joe Doyle (Joe Rossa) took to the air unexpectedly following days of back-to-back music on the station. There was speculation that a summons was to be served in connection with a previous raid and Radio Dublin was lying low and had ceased live programming. The rumour mill was in overdrive and Joe Doyle gives listeners a flavour of some of the conspiracy theories circulating but doesn’t explain what exactly is going on. He then attacks teenage DJs Barry Dunne and Gary Cruise (O’Connell) for their claims about low-powered station KHTR, a forerunner to the much bigger 1990s pirate Sunset FM. Other pirates logged that weekend were WABC in Donegal and Dublin stations Dún Laoghaire Weekend Radio, Signal Radio, Rock 103.1 and The Yahoo on 106.2.

Thanks to Barry Dunne for his donation of this recording.

Radio Dublin raided twice in a week

Radio Dublin raided twice in a week
The aerial system to the rear of 58 Inchicore Road in 1988 (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

After more than a month defying the new broadcasting laws, the inevitable happened in February 1989 when Radio Dublin was raided not once, but twice. The longest-running pirate station in Ireland and indeed the world was visited by Gardaí and Telecom Éireann officials shortly after 6am on Tuesday 7th February and transmission and studio equipment removed. The previous day the Supreme Court had dismissed an appeal by station owner Eamonn Cooke to prevent the Minister for Communications from instructing ESB and Telecom officials from cutting off the electricity and telephone supply to Cooke’s home in Inchicore. Radio Dublin was back on the air by 3pm but on 101 FM only. Four days later on 11th February at 8.20am, the station was raided for a second time but again returned after a few hours.

We’ve edited together two short recordings from that dramatic week to give a sense of the raids and Radio Dublin’s determination to keep going no matter what. The first minute or so was recorded at 9.20pm on 7th February and features Mike Wilson explaining what happened that morning. In the second, from sometime on 11th February, Mike Wilson introduces Eamonn Cooke who says that the aerial system was dismantled in the second raid. Cooke adds that programming is mostly taped for now and that the station has changed location. We thank John Breslin for these recordings.

Radio Dublin continued for many more years, only closing down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of Cooke for sexually abusing children. He was jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release. If you require support with this issue, you can contact the organisation One in Four.

Radio Dublin fights attempt to cut off power and phones

Radio Dublin fights attempt to cut off power and phones
Brian Greene’s Radio Dublin badge from the mid-1980s

Radio Dublin was still on air in the second month of 1989 despite an attempt by the authorities to cut off its electricity and power. On 30th January, the High Court rejected an attempt by the station to extend an injunction against the Minister for Communications preventing the cut-off of supply but Radio Dublin was granted a stay of execution of a week.

In this recording of part of his weekly Station News slot on Sunday 5th February, Radio Dublin owner Eamonn Cooke said that the station would take a case to the Supreme Court the following day. He asked listeners to ‘say a few prayers for us’ and to call Minister Ray Burke at his home to complain. Radio Dublin would in fact suffer its first raid two days later. Sound quality is poor on this recording, but apparently modulation was very low that day. We thank John Breslin for the donation.

Radio Dublin continued for many more years, only closing down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of Cooke for sexually abusing children. He was jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release. If you require support with this issue, you can contact the organisation One in Four.

Threat to cut off Radio Dublin’s power and phones

Threat to cut off Radio Dublin's power and phones
Radio Dublin sticker from the mid-1980s (courtesy of DX Archive).

Radio Dublin famously defied the new broadcasting laws of 1989 and stayed on the air. It was the beginning of a tumultuous period for the station involving attempts to cut off its power, raids by the authorities and changes of location.

This is a recording of Radio Dublin owner Eamonn Cooke presenting his weekly Station News on Sunday 15th January 1989, just two weeks after the new laws came into effect. He reports that the station is still going on AM, FM and shortwave but that it has been served with a prohibition notice to cut off electricity and telephone supplies on 19th January. He also refers to Radio Dublin’s High Court challenge to the constitutionality of the new laws. We thank John Breslin for his donation of this recording.

Radio Dublin continued for many more years, only closing down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of Cooke for sexually abusing children. He was jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release. If you require support with this issue, you can contact the organisation One in Four.