Robbie Robinson, founder of Sunshine Radio, dies aged 81

Robinson came to Dublin in 1980 where he and the late Chris Carey set up the station

Robbie Robinson (81), founder of super-pirate station Sunshine Radio in Dublin and an influential figure in the establishment of independent radio in Ireland, died on Tuesday in Lanzarote. He had been involved in business there this past three decades.

Born in April 1940 at Littleborough, Lancashire, in England, he was one of the main DJs on the hugely successful off-shore Radio Caroline pirate station set up on a ship in 1964 by Dubliner Ronan O'Rahilly.

It was on air for more than three years until the UK government made it illegal for ships to broadcast from within British territorial waters. Mr Robinson then began broadcasting with the Dutch pirate radio ship Radio Veronica.

With family connections to Co Tipperary, he came to Dublin in 1980 where he and the late Chris Cary set up Sunshine Radio, broadcasting from the Sands Hotel in Portmarnock. When the station mast was sabotaged shortly afterwards, Chris Cary withdrew from the project and returned to the UK.


Robbie Robinson carried on. Purpose-built studios built in Portakabins behind the Sands Hotel and the standard of broadcasting set a template for all other pirates throughout the State. He himself hosted a morning programme.

A major breakthrough came in November 1980 when Aer Lingus decided to advertise with Sunshine. The station's unexpected success meant Chris Cary was soon back in Dublin setting up Radio Nova. It closed in 1986.

Sunshine became the longest-running “super-pirate” in Ireland, broadcasting until December 31st 1988 when all non-RTÉ radio stations had to close down in compliance with new legislation, which set up independent radio stations.

Mr Robinson was confident of getting a licence but it was not to be. He and his family moved to Lanzarote where he set up the San Francisco Park apartments at Puerto del Carmen.

He is survived by his wife, Stella, and their children, Elliot and Manon.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times