Northern Ireland news

Stephen Clements' brother leads tributes to much-loved broadcaster

Stephen Clements joined BBC Radio Ulster last year

AN 'incredible talent' but also a warm, sweet guy with an infectious smile were among the huge number of tributes paid last night following the shock news of the death of broadcaster Stephen Clements.

His heartbroken family said they were "devastated to lose Stephen" after he died suddenly aged 47.

The much-loved presenter signed off from his mid-morning BBC Radio Ulster show on Monday as normal, just months after joining the station from Q Radio.

The married father-of-two, from Carrickfergus, also posted a photo montage of images of him with his family - wife Natasha and children Poppy and Robbie - on Monday night.

But he did not appear on air yesterday morning.

As news of his death was announced at lunchtime by the BBC, tributes poured in for the popular host, who was remembered as "an absolute entertainer with a heart of gold".

Read More: Q Radio Group head of news and sport pays tribute to former presenter Stephen Clements

His brother Gavin wrote on social media that Stephen was "my inspiration, my hero, my brother, I am broken".

In a statement, he also said: "We are devastated to lose Stephen who was deeply loved by his family and friends. We would ask for time to come to terms with this news and for privacy at this difficult time."

Mr Clements had only joined the BBC last summer, describing it as his "dream" job, following a successful seven years at Q Radio where, along with co-host Cate Conway, he had turned the breakfast show into one of the most popular programmes in the north.

BBC Northern Ireland director Peter Johnston said they were "deeply saddened" by his sudden death.

Stephen Clements pictured with former Q Radio co-host Cate Conway

"Stephen was a talented and versatile presenter who was much loved by his colleagues and listeners," he said.

"He brought creative flair and a sense of mischievous fun to our airwaves.

"And he had already become an established part of the BBC family."

Mr Clements worked as a television presenter for BBC NI's coverage of the Open golf championship at Royal Portrush in July, and recently co-hosted its Children in Need broadcast with Holly Hamilton.

In September he became the new host of Radio Ulster's mid-morning show, taking over from veteran presenter Sean Coyle.

Q Radio said news of his death was "heartbreaking".

It said it has been "overwhelmed" by the volume of people getting in touch to share their experiences of the broadcaster, paying tribute to his "humour, generosity, compassion and ability to put people at ease".

"He will be missed by all of us more than words can say."

Before working in radio, Mr Clements studied geography at university and taught English in South Korea, before beginning his radio presenting career on Citybeat in his late thirties.

Irish News columnist Anne Hailes last night recalled how he had written to her aged in his early 20s, seeking her advice on getting into broadcasting.

"He sent me a video clip of him DJ-ing when I was doing Ask Anne on UTV and said 'I want to be a broadcaster, what do you think'," she said.

"I told him then, you are a born broadcaster.

"I was very proud of how far he had come and recently we were at an event at City Hall and he raced after me and jumped over the railings and said to me 'thank you so much Anne'.

"He was such a sweet boy."

His personable approach earned him affection from all walks of life - from listeners to politicians, and charities to fellow broadcasters.

Radio Ulster presenter Stephen Nolan said his "warmth on air was a true reflection of the real you - a kind, decent human being with so much natural talent".

Television host Eamonn Holmes tweeted: "I'll miss you, your listeners will miss you... A lesson for us all to live life because we don't know how long it will last. Sad, sad times. How can you be gone?"

Boxer Carl Frampton described his death as "heartbreaking", while actress Bronagh Waugh said Mr Clements was "one of the kindest, sweetest, most generous person I've had the pleasure of working with".

Comedian Jake O'Kane also said he was "terribly sad" to hear of the passing of "an absolute gentleman".

Mr Clements dedicated much of his time to numerous Northern Ireland charities, including the NSPCC.

Catherine Nuttall from the charity said he was a "much-valued and much-loved ambassador".

"We were very lucky to have his generous support for many years and I was very fortunate to call him a friend," she said.

"He was always so passionate about children and young people and supporting the work of the NSPCC and Childline across Northern Ireland.

"He was generous with his time, often taking several hours out of his busy schedule to support our fundraising and awareness raising activities."

The Cancer Fund for Children also said he "supported and made such a difference to so many charities", while Marie Curie NI said he "made such a difference to the lives of people....we feel lucky to have known him through his support for QRadiothon".

He was patron of Autism NI, which also posted an online tribute, describing him as a "great supporter for autism across Northern Ireland".

Politicians also remembered him as "a true gentleman" and "incredible talent".

DUP leader Arlene Foster described his death as "absolutely devastating".

"Have been a fan since Q days. We were in touch over Christmas and New Year," she said.

"An incredible talent who was always willing to help others. Please keep his wife, little children and wider family in your prayers."

Sinn Féin's Michelle O’Neill said she was "deeply shocked and saddened".

"His radio shows on BBC Radio Ulster and Q Radio brought his legion of listeners joy through his music and humour," she said.

UUP MLA John Stewart - who represents Mr Clements' home town of Carrick - said: "Stephen was a truly wonderful person and unbelievable broadcaster. I am just in total shock."

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said he was a "true gentleman and incredibly talented broadcaster. A tragic loss".

Former Miss Northern Ireland Zoe Salmon wrote: "I’ll never forget his smile, it lit up every room he entered.

"Now it will light up the stars. What a talent & a person. A privilege to have known him and worked alongside him. Proud to call him a friend and co-host. I’ll never forget you."

Adam Keefe, head coach of the Belfast Giants, said: "Very stunned and saddened by this terrible news. Lost for words.

"You will be missed by the Giants family. We shared many of laughs together and I’ll remember those."

Ulster Rugby also said it was "saddened" by the death of "our friend and supporter" and the NI football team said Mr Clements was a "proud Northern Ireland fan" who was MC at several home games, adding that he would be "sadly missed".

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Tributes

Eamonn Holmes: I'll miss you, your listeners will miss you. My Heartfelt condolences to your family. A lesson for us all to live life because we don't know how long it will last. Sad , sad times. How can you be gone ? #RIP

Arlene Foster: Absolutely devastating news. Have been a fan since Q days. We were in touch over Christmas & New Year. An incredible talent who was always willing to help others. Please keep his wife, little children and wider family in your prayers.

Stephen Nolan: Stephen your warmth on air was a true reflection of the real you - a kind, decent human being with so much natural talent. My heartfelt condolences to your family. We will miss you.

Zoe Salmon: "I’ll never forget his smile, it lit up every room he entered. Now it will light up the stars. What a talent & a person. A privilege to have known him & worked alongside him. Proud to call him a friend & co-host.

Colin Murray: Anyone who knew Stephen Clements will feel like a bit of soul has been stripped away from their world today. To his family, know that so many hearts are breaking with you. I hope beyond hope that you can find some strength in that. Farewell, friend. You were simply beautiful.

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