That’s Pirate Radio Part 15 – An Irish Tradition

June 24, 2007 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

In fairness to all of the Irish pirates, they were simply carrying on a proud Irish tradition that was started by the rebels of 1916. When Pádraig Pearse and James Connolly led their troops into battle, they also made the world’s first ever radio broadcast. >>>

Sniper Fire

The Easter Rising rebels took over the School of Wireless Telegraphy on the corner of O’Connell Street, fixed a broken ship’s transmitter, and set up an aerial on the roof while under sniper fire.

Ships of the time used wireless to send point-to-point messages ashore, but the resourceful rebels were the first to send a radio signal randomly to anyone who happened upon it.

A transatlantic ship picked up their message, and the rebels’ spin on the rising reached America long before the ‘official’ British version did.

Marconi & O’Rahilly

In 1923 the surviving rebels, who were now running the country, took happily to the role of censors. When Guglielmo Marconi, the Irish-Italian inventor of the wireless, ran a news station for Dublin’s Horse Show week, the new Postmaster General quickly had Marconi’s equipment dismantled and deported.

The wheel turned full circle in the swinging sixties, when Irishman Ronan O’Rahilly launched the famous British pirate ship Radio Caroline. Ronan was a grandson of 1916 rebel Michael ‘The’ O’Rahilly.

Phantom FM

Since Rambo’s Law changed the radio scene, a new undercurrent of pirates has since evolved. In 2002 the new Broadcasting Commission of Ireland formally asked TDs to stop doing interviews on them. The relevant Dáil committee refused.

In 2003 many of the new pirates were raided and closed, but one proved more resilient than others. Phantom FM applied three times for a license to broadcast legally as an alternative rock station. It was twice refused, and each time went back on air as a pirate.

It finally succeeded in 2004, partly by arguing that it had brand recognition because of its illegal broadcasting. It also had influential backers in the persons of U2 manager Paul McGuinness and promoter Denis Desmond.

Phantom’s rival for the license, Zed FM, challenged the decision, but in 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that the Broadcasting Commission has a ‘generally known policy’ to give licenses to pirate stations in order to ‘encourage the cessation of illegal activity’.

Doctor Don Returns

Throughout all of this madness, nobody has emerged to match the legendary Doctor Don. In the early 2000s he surpassed even himself. As Dublin played host to ever-expanding annual Mind Body Spirit festivals, the metaphorical clinician found a new calling as a travelling psychic surgeon.

In retrospect, he announced, he now knew the meaning of an early omen in his life: as a child, he had been hugged by ‘Father’ Michael Cleary, who had told his mother that ‘You have a special boy there, Mrs Moore’.

He had since discovered while on holiday that he could heal people of various ailments. Now ‘Miracle Man Donald Moore’ travelled around Irish hotels, charging crowds to avail of his faith healing. And his humour therapy. Seriously.

End of Series
Previous Post in Series: End of an Era
First Post in Series: Radio Dublin 253


Entry filed under: Culture.

Quiz – You Rip Open Your Ribcage… Monday Quiz 1 – Sexy Legs and Summer Madness

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A blog by Michael Nugent

Welcome to my blog about living in the maddest country on earth. Please feel free to leave a comment.

I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohemians football club in the 1970s.


Bionic Bohs

As mentioned above, if you like Irish football and/or cultural nostalgia, I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohs in the 1970s.

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