The Raids of 1983 Part 2

Part 2: RIP IT UP

OPERATION NOVA PARK

On Saturday, May 14th Radio Nova had run a very successful fundraiser. Operation Novacare was still fresh in everybody’s minds at around 9.30am on the morning of Wednesday, May 18th

Sybil Fennell for Operation Novacare
Sybil Fennell for Operation Novacare

as a knock came at the door of 19 Herbert Street in the centre of Dublin. This simple knock was to have a massive knock-on effect on the dozens of radio stations broadcasting the length and breadth of the country.

A station visitor, Ray Irwin, opened the door and found that the people responsible for the knock were officials from the Department of Posts & Telegraphs, accompanied by Gardaí, who were under orders to confiscate the equipment of the two stations that were operating from the premises – Radio Nova, and its sister station Kiss FM.

Ray went to the Radio Nova studio and told the on-air jock, Declan Meehan, that the P&T and the Guards were here to shut the station down. Declan thought it was a wind-up, they were more used to the Guards popping in for a cup of tea and a chat rather than to shut them down.

Tom Hardy, who was preparing to go on air after the 10am News, went to see what was going on. He refused to comply with a request for both stations to cease broadcasting. The warrant only applied to the transmitter sites which were at remote locations.

Raid on Radio Nova May 1983
Courtesy DX Archive

Radio Nova’s was at Nova Park in Rathfarnham, a suburban area about a 15-minute drive away in south Dublin, and Kiss FM’s was a little further away, up Three Rock Mountain. They requested the keys to those premises. The station(s) boss Chris Cary was at home, asleep in bed. He was the main keyholder.

Whilst the team were desperately trying to contact one of the keyholders, a policeman entered the Radio Nova studio. He was polite and apologetic.
He said to Declan: “I know you’ve got a competition running for a holiday at the moment and I know yous will probably be back on later in the week but I have three postcards to put in for the draw on Friday!”

TOM HARDY JOINS THE P&T

On departing Herbert Street, Tom Hardy – who was due to be on air at 10am – accompanied one of the P&T officials in his car to lead them to Nova Park. The irony did not escape him that it was Nova that the radio in the P&T vehicle was tuned to!

Tom spent most of the journey winding the poor man up; advising him that he wouldn’t be very popular when he arrived home that evening and would have to tell his family that he had spent the day closing down their favourite radio station.

Whilst the officials made their way towards Nova Park (prolonged with a slight detour courtesy of Hardy) Radio Nova’s presenter Declan Meehan and co-host Bob Gallico composed themselves live on air in extremely stressful circumstances.

From a listener point of view, the first indication that anything was awry was just after 9.30am when Declan played Les Reed’s ‘Man of Action’ and put out an appeal for station boss Chris Cary to come to Herbert St.

A few minutes later, during one of Declan and Bob’s live on-air chats, Gallico announced that they may not have the news at 10 but “we could be making the news ourselves”.

This extract starts with Bob Gallico ending the 10 o’clock news and another plea from Declan Meehan for Chris Cary to come to the studio…it ends with Nova being silenced.

KISS OFF

Over on Kiss FM Mike Moran was also putting out the call for Cary, and for anyone else he thought might have keys to Nova Park.

Mike first realised something was wrong when his co-presenter Siobhán Purcell burst into the studio and told him that there was a load of police outside. He refused to believe it was a raid.

“No there’s not…it’s not 1978, it’s 1983.” he replied.

On her way to the studio the police had asked Siobhán where she was going. She told them that she was going to do the headlines. They told her that she wasn’t because the station was about to be closed down.

They then invaded the Kiss FM studio and demanded that Mike cease broadcasting, which he refused to do, again based on the warrants not being for Herbert Street.

When the plug was pulled at Three Rock Mountain a small standby transmitter kicked in and Kiss FM’s final few moments were of Moran playing loads of jingles and idents until the standby was killed. Thanks to the standby transmitter Kiss FM lasted a little longer than Radio Nova.*

*Are you aware of any recordings – if you are please get in touch.