Northern Ireland

BBC Radio Foyle broadcasts emotional final breakfast show

BBC Radio Foyle has broadcast the final Breakfast programme after 13 years on air.
BBC Radio Foyle has broadcast the final Breakfast programme after 13 years on air.

After 13 years on the air, the last Breakfast Show has been broadcast on BBC Radio Foyle before it will be replaced with a 30 minute morning news programme.

From Monday, Good Morning Ulster will be broadcast till 8.30am when Radio Foyle will broadcast North West Today until 9am.

Changes in the schedule will also see Radio Foyle's Mark Patterson show moved to the earlier time of 12pm and the Hugo Duncan show will also broadcast from Foyle studios from 1.30pm.

Hourly news bulletins will also continue on Radio Foyle from Monday to Friday.

It follows criticism of BBC Northern Ireland's decision to reduce output from the Derry-based station, which prompted a public campaign to save the station.

BBC Northern Ireland Director Adam Smyth has said the changes marked the commitment to Radio Foyle as a production centre, local and region-wide output.

It was also reported that the National Union of Journalists warned that 10 staff were at risk of redundancy, but BBC Northern Ireland has said staffing levels will remain unchanged.

Tributes were also paid to the late Radio Foyle contributor and Irish News columnist Anita Robinson.

Presenter Elaine McGee said: "With her quick wit and her turn of phrase, she put the world to rights on her Monday morning reflection for many years until she suddenly passed away in 2022.

"She was such a big part of the show and a big part of the Radio Foyle family, and we couldn't let today go without hearing her on the Breakfast show one last time, and our Anita never held back."

Playing a clip from one of her many broadcasts, listeners were reminded of her unique take on the problems of potholes in the north west.

"I'm intrigued to learn that there are certain criteria regarding the size and depth a pothole has to be in order to get immediate attention," she said.

"Never mind what it's doing to my elderly and arthritic wee Fiesta, wait till the claims unit gets the bill from me for damage to my very expensive dental implants."

Sharing one of her personal highlights on the programme, Ms McGee remembered back to Spring 2020 at the start of the Covid pandemic.

"I was so pregnant, oh my God, I was just like this little penguin waddling around my house broadcasting from the front room," she said.

"One morning I was chatting to the very lovely Reverend Judi McGaffin when I had a wee visitor."

This turned out to be her three-year-old son Finn who introduced himself live on air to all the Radio Foyle listeners.

"That is one of my happiest Breakfast show memories to be sure," she said.

Later in the programme, Mr Hunter thanked listeners for their support over the years.

"This is the final BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast show. From Monday, things are going to look and sound a little bit different...but what won't change is our gratitude to you particularly over the past few months."

He added: "For me personally, it's been a privilege and just been living a dream to sit here and present a programme that's a little window out into the world."

A highlights reel included reporting from the opening of the Peace Bridge in Derry, the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Buncrana tragedy and Derry being named as the UK City of Culture.

Other major stories including the shooting of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019, the success of Derry Girls, the impact of Brexit and the deaths of the Queen, Martin McGuinness and John Hume as well as the Creeslough tragedy last year.

Overcome with emotion, Ms McGee told listeners when she first moved to Derry she wasn't even aware of how to find the famous Guildhall.

"Today I have my own Derry family now, it's just been some journey hasn't it? I'll be honest with you all now, I haven't been looking forward to this day now and it hurts that it ends here.

"It's hard to let go but we are so proud of this show and we are so grateful to you and we feel really privileged that we as a team have been lucky enough to tell your stories and cover the issues that are important to your life."

She added: "Above all, thank you for listening to us. For trusting us, for choosing us and letting us into your life."

Before signing off by playing Derry's unofficial anthem, Teenage Kicks by the Undertones, she called the connection created by local radio with the community was "magic" and promised listeners their voices would always matter on Radio Foyle.