Ex-BBC broadcaster Stephen Grimason lived life full of colour, funeral told

Veteran broadcaster and communications chief Stephen Grimason lived a life full of “colour, character and achievement”, his funeral has heard.

BBC Northern Ireland’s former political editor died at the weekend at the age of 67 after a long battle with cancer.

Mr Grimason was arguably best known for being the first reporter to get his hands on a copy of the historic Good Friday Agreement prior to the peace deal being publicly announced in April 1998.

Three years after that scoop, he became the director of communications for Northern Ireland’s powersharing administration at Stormont – a role he held for 15 years until his retirement in 2016.

Stephen Grimason funeral
Mourners gather as the hearse carrying the coffin of former BBC Northern Ireland political editor Stephen Grimason, arrives for his funeral mass at Drumbeg Parish Church in Dunmurry, Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

A host of his former BBC colleagues attended the service at Drumbeg Parish Church on the outskirts of Belfast, as did counterparts from other media organisations.

Former SDLP leader and Stormont deputy first minister Mark H Durkan and ex-Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt were among political figures in attendance.

Past and present members of Stormont’s Executive Information Service also joined mourners in the packed church, along with friends from the talented golfer’s home club at Shandon Park in Belfast.

Former Sky News journalist Gary Honeyford, a long-time friend of Mr Grimason, delivered the eulogy.

He told how Mr Grimason rang him three years ago to reveal his terminal diagnosis and to tell him he would be doing the eulogy.

He joked how Mr Grimason, originally from Lurgan, Co Armagh, had played a central role in scripting the remarks to be delivered at his own funeral.

“That is Stephen Grimason – not only does he commission his own funeral eulogy but he insists on scripting it,” he told mourners.

Mr Honeyford then held up his speaking notes and repeated Mr Grimason’s famous line from 1998 when he showed the world the first copy of the Good Friday accord: “I have it in my hand, 67 pages.”

He added: “Now is the time to celebrate a life that was full of colour, character and achievement.”

Mr Honeyford said his friend was a wonderful raconteur whose love for his family sustained him through his illness.

Stephen Grimason funeral
The coffin is carried into the church (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Stephen was a man of total enthusiasm, everything he turned his hand to, everything that caught his eye, he gave 100% to,” he said.

During the service, sympathies were extended to Mr Grimason’s wife Yvonne, his children Jennifer, Chris, Rachel and Jonathan, his seven grandchildren, his mother Jean and sister Cherryl.

Chris, Cherryl and close friend Joan Boyd all delivered tributes during a funeral that was marked by warmth and humour.

Music by two of the former journalist’s favourite artists, Kris Kristofferson and The Eagles, was also played.

Prior to joining the BBC, Mr Grimason cut his teeth working in local newspapers including the Lurgan Mail, the Ulster Star in Lisburn and Banbridge Chronicle, as well as regional papers, the former Sunday News newspaper and the News Letter.