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The Pirate Closedowns of 1988


KISS FM 103.7

Broadcast from Old Cross Square, Monaghan || Scheduled close 6pm

First port of call is Monaghan to hear how Kiss FM, ‘Ulster’s number 1’, switched off. Widely acclaimed as one of the top stations in the country at the end of 1988, Kiss FM had only been on air for 9 months and – like with so many of the nation’s stations – it was a tragedy that it was cut down in its prime.

It contained a wealth of talent who had cut their teeth with other top stations, such as Radio Nova and Radio Caroline, so it is no surprise that Kiss FM dared to be different.

The like of it – and sorry to reiterate the point – so many other unique stations, were never to grace our airwaves again. In an ideal world we’d be free to choose.

If you haven’t heard Kiss FM before, prepare yourself; you’re in for a treat. If you have heard it before, you know you’re in for a treat.

Here’s how they said goodbye to their huge listenership with this recording starting just as the 4pm news was finishing…and ending with a blast…


Broadcast from Longford || Scheduled close 6pm

Across to Longford to find that Independent Radio Longford have already said goodbye to their listeners this morning ahead of their 6pm scheduled close – via the front page of today’s Longford Leader.

Independent Radio Longford had been on the air for three years and the station’s owner, Gerry Conboy, intended to apply for a licence. We tune to their signal at 5pm with an hour to go before they close.


Broadcast from Offaly || Scheduled close 6pm

Broadcasting from above a chip-shop in Tullamore, for Kiss FM’s final hour the station’s presenters were in the studio for a bit of banter and to say their goodbyes.
It fell to Barry Flynn to deliver a final speech for the last link and this was to be followed by playing a vinyl copy of the song ‘Kiss’ by Prince.
Barry: “So the single was loaded on the turntable and cued. Polished emotional link delivered…fader up, and the record starts at the wrong speed!!!”

Unfortunately we do not have a copy of the station’s closedown. If you can help complete this history please get in touch.


Broadcast from Waterford || Scheduled close 6pm

Back down to Waterford where ABC Radio had closed the day before. WLR, or Waterford Local Radio, were another hugely successful commercial pirate. Somehow both had managed to co-exist in the county – along with other stations – but the new licensing regime felt there was room for just one. A situation echoed across the country.

We join WLR at 5.20pm for their scheduled 6pm close.


Broadcast from Dublin Hill, Cork city || Scheduled close 6pm

In Cork, Centre Radio on 95.0MHz also shut its transmissions at 6pm. The station had already closed early in 1988 but returned in September.
Station founder Eric Young paid tribute to presenters past and present in his final speech: Tony Carey, Alan Jones, Pat O’Rourke, Pete Asher, Tony Lewis, Tim Desmond, Fergus Hunter, Tracy Bennett, John Andrews, Leon Jackson, Derek Jackson, Ann Harris, Paul Wyse, Bill Davis, Tom Cotter, Con Hannigan, Fergal Barry, Tony Williams, John O’Connor, Dave Gilmore, Jerry O’Connor, Chris Wigley, Chris Black, Steve James, Donal McKeon 

Unfortunately, we do not have a copy of the station’s closedown. If you can help complete this history please get in touch.


Broadcast from Limerick || Scheduled close 7pm

Across the country now to Limerick to hear Power 98FM’s scheduled closedown at 7pm. The ‘mid-western power station’ launched in December 1986 as SoundChannel FM. The name-change came about in mid-1988 following extensive research which also saw a switch in output from the station’s ‘general entertainment’ style to a more adult music format.
We join the Power Drive with Steve Phillips at 5.45pm.


As the evening progressed, there were developments in Donegal. Radio North had received news that Cooke had won his constitutional challenge to stop the closedowns and were openly celebrating on air.

Meanwhile, WABC had been pinning a lot of hope on Cooke’s court challenge. After their 4pm closedown earlier they had left a loop tape on air. Just after 8pm that loop tape subsequently changed to this…

Unfortunately, though, the stations were still required to close. As mentioned earlier, Cooke had taken his case to the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the new laws outlawing unlicensed stations.

Although the resident Judge agreed that there was a case to answer for certain sections of the Act, he did not believe he had the authority to interfere with the workings of the government and so dismissed the case. In other words, Cooke lost.

The judge did, however, advise that Cooke should take action on those sections of the Act which he deemed might warrant worthy of a challenge as soon as possible. It appeared to be this which caused confusion; obviously some believed that the Act would be put on hold until the challenge to those sections had taken place.

Strangely, other stations across the country had earlier reported the outcome of the case correctly. Why such confusion in Donegal?

And, for the record, and totally unrelated, Q102 in Dublin did stay on air after 6pm with non-stop continuous music.

The scheduled Friday evening closedowns continue on the next page – the time now is 8.30pm; everybody has to be off air within the next 27 and a half hours…