Great Moments in Irish Radio

Broadcaster Gay Byrne - Photo credit: Jonathan Ryan/ (Flickr)
Broadcaster Gay Byrne - Photo credit: Jonathan Ryan/ (Flickr)

A radio continuity announcer’s surprise ‘guest’, quiz questions that never seem to suit the contestants or historic moments such as Pádraig Pearse’s pioneering morse code announcement followed nine decades later with the Governor of the Central Bank on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland feature in Eleanor Mannion’s look at great moments in Irish radio broadcasting.

Here are 10 memorable (but in no particular order) broadcasting moments from Irish radio.

Irish Republic Declared, read by Pádraig Pearse – 1916

Picture credit: Jacqian (Flickr)
1916 covered post box – Picture credit: Jacqian (Flickr)

Did you know that the Irish Republic’s first official broadcast took place during the 1916 Rising?

One of Pearse’s primary actions was to use the wireless telegraph in the GPO to declare a Republic to the world. The morse transmission reached America where the papers reported “Revolt in Ireland”.

Ireland’s first radio news bulletin read: “Irish Republic declared in Dublin today.

Irish troops have captured city and are in full possession. Enemy cannot move in city. The whole country rising.”

Minister for Health reveals he is “a gay man” on RTÉ Radio One Sunday with Miriam – 2015

Picture credit:  World Travel and Tourism Council (Flickr)
Minister Leo Varadkar TD – Picture credit: World Travel & Tourism Council (Flickr)

The news was big here, not because it was controversial, but because it was another step that showed how Ireland is moving forward when it comes to sexuality.

Leo Varadkar became the first openly gay Irish Government Minister and in doing so stimulated much healthy debate about gay rights in Ireland.

You can listen to the full interview here.

 Ann Lovett Letters on RTÉ’s Gay Byrne Show – 1984

Picture credit: Jonathan Ryan/
Broadcaster Gay Byrne – Picture credit: Jonathan Ryan/

As Gay Byrne said on his programme in 1984, just over two weeks after the Ann Lovett story broke, there were “too many letters. They couldn’t be ignored.”

The schoolgirl was 15, when she was found in shock and close to death, having given birth to a baby boy at a grotto on a hill just outside her home town of Granard, Co Longford. Her son was dead by the time passersby discovered her, and Ann died later that day in hospital.

The hundreds of letters people sent to the Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ radio in response to this tragedy in 1984 contained the previously untold stories of many women in Ireland at the time. The programme was a devastating piece of broadcasting, which gave voice to women who had until then suffered in silence.

You can listen to a RTÉ Doc on One about this particular Gay Byrne show here

GAA Commentary

Whether you are listening to local or national radio GAA commentary is an art form in and of itself – the passion, the pride, the tears, the strained vocal chords… Here are a couple of examples:

Political Satire

From Scrap Saturday to Gift Grub to Callan’s Kicks Irish satirists have held those in power to account but always in a most humorous way…

Horror radio! – 1969

In 1969, listeners to RTÉ radio were treated to, arguably, the bizarrest continuity announcement in the station’s history. Here’s what happened when announcer Treasa Davison tried to introduce the news…

Lavinia Kerwick on RTÉ 2FM’s The Gerry Ryan Show – 1993

Gerry Ryan’s style on the Gerry Ryan Show was considered to be motor-mouth shock jock and frequently caused upset and complaints from members of the public when on his show he discussed topics such as sex, bodily functions, and food – as well as current social and political issues.

However, the defining moment of the Gerry Ryan Show came in 1993, when a rape victim, Lavinia Kerwick, rang in to air her feelings after her attacker was given a suspended sentence. In doing so Lavinia Kerwick gave up her anonymity and went on to appear on the show to tell her story,  and became the first Irish rape victim to go public.

Gerry Ryan was credited with handling the issue with delicacy and Kerwick credited him with helping him to tell her story.

Larry Gogan’s ‘Just a Minute Quiz’ – 1979 and still going

The questions just didn’t suit you

Larry (christened Lorcan) Gogan is famous for his “Just a Minute Quiz“. When contestants get only a couple of questions correct he is famous for the catchphrase “They didn’t really suit you”. The quiz has produced its fair share of bloopers which have gone down in Irish radio history.

Some of the best wrong answers:

Larry: Name the capital of France? – Contestant: F

Larry: Where is the Taj Mahal? – Contestant: Opposite the dental hospital

Larry: What star do travellers follow? – Contestant: Joe Dolan

Pirate Radio

Maybe not a moment but certainly a movement Irish Pirate radio has had a long history.

Pirate Radio - photo credit: ganeshaisis
Pirate Radio – photo credit: ganeshaisis (Flickr)

Due to past lax enforcement of the rules, the lack of commercial radio until 1989, and the small physical size of the country, pirate radio had proliferated in Ireland up until recent years. They were tolerated to a point by the government which only occasionally raided them in an effort to show compliance with Irish law.

At different stages, pirate stations were the mainstay of radio listenership, particularly in Dublin giving commercial stations a run for their money.Notable stations at the time included: Radio Dublin, Sunshine Radio, Radio Nova and Phantom.

Unlike other countries, Irish pirate stations were almost always on land, with publicly available phone numbers and addresses, advertising and known presenters. Government crackdown now means Ireland has one of the most hardline anti-pirate policies in Europe, and few major stations survive although some did transition successfully from pirate to licensed broadcasting.

Central Bank Governor on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland – 2010

Courtesy: Bank of England
Patrick Honohan – Picture credit: BoE (Flickr)

On the morning of November 2010 the Governor of the Central Bank confirmed on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio show that an International Monetary Fund load worth “tens of billions” was on its way to Ireland.

Professor Patrick Honohan’s intervention was significant because it came after days of confusion when ministers had tried to play down the likelihood of a bailout, even after Cabinet had formally decided to begin discussions with the IMF and EU.

UCD economics professor Morgan Kelly later said of Prof Honohan’s intervention: “Rarely has a finance minister been so deftly sliced off at the ankles by his central bank governor”.

His eight minute interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland was the first substantive discussion of how this loan would work.

You can listen to the interview in full with presenter Rachael English here.

What do you think? Are there better moments? Have your say in the comments section below.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Great Moments in Irish Radio | Connemara Odd

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.