Warning of ‘chaos’ on airwaves from pirate stations in 1983

Airwave interference rendered ambulance radio systems ‘useless’, government was warned

Fans outside the Radio Nova offices in Dublin in May 1983 as the station closed down. Photograph: Peter Thursfield/The Irish Times

Fans outside the Radio Nova offices in Dublin in May 1983 as the station closed down. Photograph: Peter Thursfield/The Irish Times


More than 50 illegal radio stations were operating in 1983 and “this proliferation threatened chaos on the airwaves and potential safety hazards”, an official memo warned.

Airwave interference from pirate radio stations had rendered ambulance radio systems “useless” in Dublin and elsewhere in April 1983 and was bringing Ireland “into international disrepute”, according to documents released by the Department of the Taoiseach.

A memo prepared for the government in May said illegal stations had caused serious interference to authorised services in Ireland and other countries. Formal complaints had been received from overseas, it said, and there had also been interference with aircraft during taxiing and after take-off, and with Garda radio networks and radio and television reception.

The North Eastern Health Board had said that its radio system had been useless for four days in April and fire services in Drogheda, Dundalk and Meath had the same issue.

Radio Nova
A study by the Department of Post and Telegraphs found the sources were Radio Nova and Kiss FM.

Minister for posts and telegraphs Jim Mitchell said he would bring in legislation to introduce legal local radio and impose large fines for illegal broadcasters. “My aim is to phase out illegal stations as I phase in legal ones,” he said.

He did warn, however, that it would be necessary to act speedily against “serious complaints of interference”.

In May, equipment was seized from Radio Nova, Kiss FM and Radio Sunshine, which had been interfering with frequencies at Dublin Airport.

RTÉ deficit
In a memo for government in September, the financial position of RTÉ was outlined by the minister. It had a net deficit of more than £600,000, although this was an improvement on the previous year.

The memo also said the Broadcasting Authority had expressed its concern “at the impunity with which illegal radio operators appropriate frequencies unauthorised by the State or international agreements”.

On December 6th, Ted Nealon, minister of state at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, announced that Radio Nova had gone a step further and begun illegal television broadcasts from Herbert Street in Dublin city centre. Its equipment was seized on December 9th.

On the same day equipment was seized from Community Radio 257, in Portmarnock, after it interfered with landing systems at Dublin Airport.