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Campaign to name Belfast International Airport after Joey Dunlop takes off as 2,500 sign petition in the first 24 hours

By Laura Abernethy

Published 28/11/2015

Racing legend Joey Dunlop after winning at the Isle of Man TT in 2000
Racing legend Joey Dunlop after winning at the Isle of Man TT in 2000
Joey leading his brother Robert at the North West 200 in the same year
Joey in his heyday

A campaign to rename Belfast International Airport after road racing legend Joey Dunlop has received thousands of signatures in just a few days.

Fan Alan Moore (44), from Ballymena, set up the petition on Thursday and last night it had secured over 2,500 signatures.

The motorcycling champion from Ballymoney died on July 2, 2000, after he was involved in a road accident as he was leading the 125cc race in Tallinn, Estonia.

As well as 26 Isle of Man TT wins and five world championship titles, Joey was known as a quiet and unassuming man who drove van loads of aid to orphans in Romania.

Although there are several memorials in his home town, some fans have said that this isn't enough and more needs to be done to recognise the contribution that he made to Northern Ireland.

Alan explained: "I'm a taxi driver and I'm always up and down to the airports. We have one airport named after George Best who was a great name for the country. Then we have a wee man from Armoy who is five times world champion plus he did a lot of charity work that is never really talked about."

Belfast City Airport was renamed after George Best in March 2006. At the time, airport chief executive Brian Ambrose described it as a "fitting and permanent tribute to his footballing brilliance".

Alan added: "In Ballymoney, you have the Dunlop Garden and the Dunlop Leisure Centre but there is nothing in the country itself to really honour his name.

"Why not name the International Airport after him to push his name out there and let people know exactly what this man was?"

Alan said he was surprised by the great response to the petition, with over 2,500 people backing the campaign in just over 24 hours and now he hopes Northern Ireland will take notice.

He said: "It's really taken off. I knew he had a great fanbase and I knew it would get the recognition he deserves but I just didn't think it would happen so quickly."

He believes that the petition could get between 10,000 and 30,000 signatures and is hopeful that politicians will get involved to put pressure on American company ADC & HAS Airports Worldwide who own the airport.

Many of the signatories are from Northern Ireland but it has also received support from Dunlop fans across the world.

Supporters from America, New Zealand and Australia and across Europe have backed the online petition.

"I gave it the first nudge but now it has gained momentum and has really started to travel. I just wanted to gauge interest for this but it has taken on a life of it's own. It shows the support there is for Joey," Alan added.

With around four million people using Belfast International Airport last year, he said that this was a great opportunity to spread the message about Joey: "Everyone in Northern Ireland recognises his name and his yellow helmet but the rest of the world doesn't know the good that this man did. Changing the name of the airport would mean that any visitors to Northern Ireland would hear his name the moment they arrive."

A spokesperson for Belfast International Airport said: "We acknowledge all of our sporting greats. However, we have no plans to change the name of the airport."

To view the online petition, click here.

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