Abigail Rieley

Writer and Author

Pirates and Paedophiles

I went to see The Boat that Rocked in the cinema today.  It brought back a lot of fond memories.  I started out in radio before moving to print.  I met the husband when we were both working in Anna Livia FM, a special interest station that used to be based on Grafton Street.  I’ve fond memories of working in conditions that would have given a health and safety inspector palpitations – it was always more fun than working in commercial stations.

I never worked for a pirate but you can’t work in radio without meeting an awful lot of people who did. The nostalgia would be rife on late night shifts or Sunday afternoons when the phones weren’t hopping and the pre records were longer.  Here in Ireland pirate radio had it’s heyday for much longer than the UK.  Commercial radio didn’t kick off here until the late 80s so pirate radio had a much higher profile for a lot longer.

I didn’t move to Dublin until 1991 so I missed the glory days of stations like Sunshine, Radio Nova or Q102 (a different operation to the station of that name currently broadcasting although there are some overlaps).  By the time I moved up legal stations like FM104 and 98FM had started broadcasting and the pirates were no more.  I know several people who get decidedly misty eyed when talking about Sunshine’s last night on air.

These days though, my mind tends to jump in one direction when the subject of pirate radio comes up.  One of the drawbacks of doing the court beat is that sometimes what you see down there pushes in front of nicer memories, becoming a reference point to start from even if you’re not consciously dwelling on the details of any one trial.  Some cases just lodge there.  There’s not a lot you can do about it.  The trial of the founder of Radio Dublin (one of, if not the oldest pirate in Dublin) stuck more than most.

Eamonn “Captain” Cooke was a larger than life figure the Dublin radio scene as far back as the mid 1960s.  He ran the station out of his house in Inchicore and weathered garda raids and defections.  The one thing the station couldn’t survive was the Captain’s incarceration for the sexual assault of several underage girls.

One of the first big trials I covered was his second trial after he had been released on a legal technicality.  Two of the four women involved in the first trial had to go through the evidence for a second time.  Over four tedious weeks in the Winter of 2007 the trial stuttered to a conclusion, forced to delay for weeks due to the claims of ill health from the man the local children called the “Cookie Monster”.

We were told how he brought children round to the house to abuse them. The sheer arrogance of the man was absolutely staggering.  To this day he says the allegations are spiteful smears on his good name…despite being twice convicted.

These days you will still hear people talking nostalgically about “Captain” Cooke.  You will even find articles like this one knocking about on-line, calling Cooke “a caring man…who loves children”.  There seems to be an attitude in certain quarters that the music was all that was important.  It didn’t really matter that the man in who’s house the station broadcasted from liked them well before puberty.

It’s a little like saying Hitler was a nice bloke as long as you didn’t bring up the politics!

Eamonn Cooke was convicted for being a predatory paedophile who groomed children as young as 7 for abuse.  The fact that he could be charming or good company outside that doesn’t make it any better.  Once again, I’m not saying that the DJs who worked in Radio Dublin acted improperly but the rumours were around for years.  I had heard stories about Eamonn Cooke’s fondness for underage skirt long before he was arrested.  He’s not a nice man and should have been brought to justice years sooner.  The incidents mentioned in court happened in the mid 1970s.  Maybe we’re just not very good at shopping people who like abusing children in this country.

If you’re reading this and you worked in Radio Dublin with Cooke and have a problem with what I’m saying here please say so.  I sat through all that trial and as I said the details have stuck with me, two years later.  But on certain message boards online he’s talked about as a pirate hero with an unfortunate weakness.  That I don’t understand.

19 Comments

  1. I grew up in Dublin in the heyday of that first wave of pirate radio of which Radio Dublin were at the core. ARD and The Big D among others had their moments. This was before even 2FM existed so there was no format music radio until Nova and Sunshine, pirates due to the mess that was Irish laws rather than any particular musical or radio ethos.

    Among people of my age I used to regularly indulge in the nostalgia you speak of (I can remember words of jingles, adverts, and even phone numbers – sadly). And I use to laugh for years remembering the Captain giving his weekly updates in a voice highly unsuitable for radio.

    But it all stopped for me when he was convicted of child abuse. I still have memories of listening to good and bad shows crackling away, and of raids by the guards live on air, but my fondness for those memories is largely gone now. I can’t separate his crimes from what I used to listen to.

    I should add though, that although 58 Inchicore Road isn’t all that far as the crow flies from where I grew up, I hadn’t heard the rumours. Perhaps I was too young.

  2. Hi ,
    No one will probably believe this..but i actually live in the house in inchicore where cooke once lived
    I’m not goin 2 say the address..
    but i found this article most discomforting.

  3. I was a DJ on Radio in 1978, I left Dublin before Cooke was convicted and I have only recently heard about it. I am shocked but not surprised. I always knew he was a bit nutty and eccentric but as long as I worked there I never saw anything untoward. I did see him worship DJ Sylvie who was one of the original jocks, but she was in her twenties or maybe early thirties. I did know that he was dating a young girl of about 17 who was there answering the phones and I heard afterwards that she had a child by him. Its a bit scary to have been so close to someone and not know what they were really like.

    • Abigail

      5th June 2009 at 8:38 pm

      Thank you for your comment Sean. I got into radio in the mid 90s, years after the events that the trial centred around but even so I heard rumours. I never worked in Radio Dublin myself but I’ve known and worked with a lot of people who’ve passed through at some stage – it’s still such a small industry. Even hearing the gossip I was surprised when I heard about the charges. I fought to cover the trial because it was familiar territory and I hadn’t been working down in the courts for that long. It was one of the most disturbing trials I have ever covered. Having sat through the weeks of evidence I’m always surprised by how many people in the business still look back on their days with Captain Cooke as halcyon but another thing I’ve learnt working down the courts. You can’t tell what someone might have been guilty about. Some of the greatest charmers are guilty of the worst crimes.

  4. i know no one is going to believe me but i am one of cooke’s children…i wish when the rumours first came 0ut about him that that people would have acted…please if you ever see a child suffering act on it

    [This comment has been heavily edited because some of it’s content makes reference to ongoing legal processes. If possible I will allow the full comment up in the future if these issues are subsequently resolved.]

  5. In fairness that article you linked to was written several years before any charges were broguht against him; its also from a UK magazine so the journalist is even less likely to have heard any whispers about Cooke.

    I worked for Radio Dublin more than 20 years ago and the stories about Cooke were legion. He also allegedly knocked up a teenaged girl in the early 80s but apparently nothing was ever done about that. Cooke had been involved in the Republican movement back in the 50s and wasn’t too slow to hint about ongoing links with them.

    I was 15 when I worked for Cooke and soon left (actually I got fired; you know you’re not cut out for broadcasting when you’ve been fired from what was the worst radio station on the planet).

    There were a lot of young girls hanging around the place, but they were all roughly the same age as me, so I really didn’t think it too odd. A lot of the weekend DJs (like me) were that age so if anything we were slightly chuffed that they were there. A lot of the DJs were older though. And there’d be people hanging around the place night and day. Now we have a better idea of what was going on.

    There was this very strange cult of personality around Cooke. By the time I started working there you wouldn’t see him day to day, but you’d hear back if he was annoyed or happy. When he did pop his head in he’d be muttering to himself and wouldn’t stay or talk for too long. He had a bunch of minions do most of his work for him. One of whom subsequently faked his own death (unsuccessfully). This wasn’t considered an unusual thing to do in Radio Dublin circles.

    There was another time when a part time DJ and FCA member went apeshit and started firing a gun around the place. The Special Branch were quick to respond to that.

    Several staff members ended up in prison (mainly for fraud). I don’t want to make it sound like I’m telling good auld war stories here, but stuff like that was the norm in Radio Dublin. Maybe thats how nobody paid enough attention to those rumours.

    To Eamons child above; I’m so sorry. We’d always hear third hand stories of how Eamon was a great father and how the family would be getting bigger again. If we had known we would’ve tried to do something. Hindsight is a great thing, but I genuinely wish you the best with your life.

    GB

  6. Hi Abigail, just to thank you for your very human side to this story, that man was no hero and messed with too many lives, I am the one who he had petrol boomed on the south circular road, and also went to trial for with his bunch of thugs, if its any consolation to all concerned, he is rotten and rotting in his own hell. To all his victims BE STRONG and thats how you beat him, thanks again Abigail. John Paul.

  7. The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes. He was actually quite a manipulative character. He got rid of people who stood up to him, I remember several DJ’s who were unhappy that they were working for nothing and asked to be paid. He was boasting that he was getting more revenue from Advertising than RTE.
    Within weeks most of them had been sidelined. He did several things that I considered a bit weird then but now make sense.
    I remember thinking that If I rocked the boat, I would be out on my ear and I believe that made most of the people around him stay quiet, after all we were in a job that most people only ever dreamed of.
    I shudder to think that several people knew why Big D moved away from him. I was one of the people who helped him get the station back on it’s feet at the time. I was there when he was doing his weekly broadcast and castigating the DJ’s who ruined his station. I heard him threaten to do nasty things to the Big D personnel and the station.
    He got front page headlines in most the Sunday Papers ahead of his ‘I will reveal all’ news which was broadcast every Sunday. I did the show before he went on and he shuffled me out of the room while he played ‘Boola Boola’ and ‘Oxygen’ before he began his rant.
    I cannot understand why at that stage, no one came forward to report his wrong doings, because he was blatantly naming and shaming other DJ’s at that time.

  8. Hi Abigail, I saw somewhere that one of his victims wrote a book about the abuse. Do you know the name of it and is its available to buy anywhere?

    Thank you

  9. Hi sean one of his victuims did right a ook her name is siobhan kennedy mcguinness and the book is called playing in the dark. most book shops no longer sell the book but it is avilable on the internet such as amazon

  10. I did a search and all the bookshops on line say its out of stock permanently, including Amazon. Do you know of any way I could get a copy in Ireland?

    • Abigail

      6th April 2010 at 3:11 pm

      Hi Sean,
      Thanks for the additional comments. It’s a case that really stuck in my head…apart from anything else I had heard so many stories over the years working in radio. I hadn’t been aware of the book although I had been aware that she was considering writing one during the trial I covered. Like yourself I’ve searched for the book online but I can’t find a copy. I’ll keep looking and leave a link here if I find anything.

  11. Thanks Abigail, I am currently writing a book on the various interesting people I have met and worked with in my career, so I have a real interest in this character, I would like to read the book for that reason so I would appreciate any help in tracking it down.

  12. I managed to track down a copy of the book. It has been shipped from Sydney and I am anxiously awaiting it’s arrival. I will let you know.

  13. Dear Abigail, I’ve just found your page and its very interesting. I thought it might be important for the sake of clarity to mention that the second trial actually ran for four weeks in Jan/Feb 2007 and Cooke was sentenced again in March of that year. You may need to change Summer to Winter. Also, the trial actually ran for four weeks in total and although you are correct that he attempted to delay and scupper proceedings through claims of illness (in fact it transpired in the Judges summing up that the injury was to his groin) he succeeded to delay only for a matter of days at a time, not weeks.  

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I’ve made the changes to the post as you suggest. My apologies – I was writing from memory and after so many trials individual details can occasionally get confused. I remember the sentence took place just before or just after a recess. I had misremembered it as during the Trinity term rather than the Easter term as it was. I know the trial was delayed in weeks in total as it had been originally slated to last no longer than a fortnight. Thanks again for supplying the missing details.

  14. Ewan O'Doherty

    29th May 2016 at 8:36 am

    Dear Abigail
    This is a most disturbing story about a man who was nothing more than manipulative, sordid and disgusting. As you had covered his trial in 2007 and so many details have stayed with you, what was uncovered cannot be posted online, perhaps for legal reasons among others. The deeds of Eamonn Cooke are enough to ruin the joy and fulfilment for all of us who worked in radio, then and now. We can only move on from this horrible episode and put it in perspective, difficult though it will be.
    Blessings and peace
    Ewan

  15. I’d say this article will be getting a lot of hits over the next few days.
    Well written account of a monster.

  16. He is now linked with the abduction and murder of Philip Cairns in October 1986. Cooke is arguably the worst monstrous man in recent Irish history.
    Such a shame he wasn’t found guilty of this crime.

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