Radio Nova: Part 1 – Chapter 18

I suppose, after all the strokes I’m supposed to have pulled, I will be regarded as the JR of the Irish radio industry.

Chris Cary

A View of the Closure From the Inside by Seán McCarthy

These were sad days for lots of people, most particularly for the freedom of the listeners to enjoy a station that sounded particularly optimistic, hopeful and escapist at a time when the country was in deep recession with hundreds of thousands of young people fleeing the economic gloom of mid-eighties Ireland and forced to emigrate. What a time to take a favourite radio station down.

I look at Ireland today, its multicultural openness, its accommodation of US, Euro and UK corporations, its bending over backwards to keep these and other job creators firmly committed to the country. How times have changed.

The advertising revenue power struggle between competition, and the newsroom coverage of political viewpoints of the day, were undoubtedly central to increasing tension, but as I look back at 1986 and the driving off the air of Radio Nova with unconscionable jamming, I do wonder how much of this was fuelled with some level of animosity due to Chris and Robbie being English, and how such disdainful actions against non-nationals would be viewed today? There’s a thought worth having in that, I believe.

The station’s NUJ strikers had concerns, of course, and were listened to, heard, and had their actions and arguments covered extensively by national press (as has been diligently highlighted in this section).

To any newspaper reader of the day, Radio Nova seemed under endless incoming fire from the Post & Telegraphs, RTÉ, and a union strike that had raged on for a time. To the average Radio Nova listener, it may have seemed as if a three-pronged onslaught against the station was ongoing. Three horns, one mission.

So too with legitimate concerns was anyone witnessing this shockingly transparent jamming attack on a radio station that by then, in my opinion, deserved a licence to broadcast after all it had accomplished with the public. Where was the recognition for all that Chris Cary and Robbie Robinson and others had achieved in Ireland for Irish listeners, and for all those who had gained such valuable and career-launching experience and skills so many would never have realised a chance to hone anywhere else in Ireland? If you didn’t land a job on RTÉ in those days, you had one more move: London. Ask Eamonn Andrews, Terry Wogan, David Tynan O’Mahony, Daniel Patrick Carroll and endless others.

Even today, young broadcasters sit comfortably in radio gigs all across Ireland, oblivious to the risks, passion and hardship their predecessors had taken to challenge the boundaries of broadcasting.

Facebook is celebrated today and sits headquartered in Dublin, alongside a host of non-national success stories, all accommodated beyond belief. The original Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio should surely have been embraced as success stories at the time, and should have flourished. Instead they were driven out like bandits in the night.

One of those remarkable moments in Ireland’s civil history when the actions of a Government, a national broadcaster, and striking union members came in direct conflict with the will of a listening public to want to continue to enjoy their favourite radio station during an economic depression witnessing hundreds of thousands of Ireland’s youth flee the drudgery of it all.

Disturbing days, with little celebration. Ireland was losing its most successful radio station, with a professionalism, quality and captivating command never to be enjoyed again to this day, were it not for surviving recordings.

Seán was known as Gary Hamill on Radio Nova

The Closure: In the Newspapers

Irish Inependent March 20th 1986
Irish Times – March 20th 1986
Irish Press March 20th 1986
The Journalist – April 1986
Hot Press – April 25th 1986
Radio Nova

Part 1 Chapter 17: The Year of the Spat

Radio Nova

Part 1 Chapter 19: After Hours