Dunlop family split over memorial gardens plan
Plans to unite two memorial gardens for Northern Ireland's greatest motorcycling brothers have split their family, it was revealed yesterday.
Mother May Dunlop requested that a path be built in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, between the shrines to Joey and Robert Dunlop who conquered the world's most difficult races.
But "King of the Road" Joey's widow Linda said today: "It will always be Joey's memorial."
He died during a race in Estonia in 2000. Robert was killed at Northern Ireland's flagship event the North West 200 in 2008.
Ballymoney Borough Council has voted to go ahead with the redevelopment work which involves removing a section of hedge and building a path.
This has been bitterly opposed by Linda Dunlop despite her protestations that she holds no ill will against her late brother-in-law's family.
"We don't see the need for a contractor to come in when there's no need to disturb the garden," she said.
"It is not a vendetta, there is no tension with Robert's family. We just don't see the need after nine years for Joey's garden to be disturbed."
Robert, 47, won 15 races at the North West, the record for the most victories there, and his brother won 13.
Father-of-three Robert came off his bike in the 250cc qualifying session near Portrush in May 2008.
Joey, 48, was five-times Formula One champion. He won a record 26 times at the Isle of Man TT and was crowned "King of the Road" for his skills at road racing.
He died immediately after crashing into trees during a 125cc event in Tallinn in July 2000.
A spokesman for Robert's family said: "The family are absolutely delighted that the council is complying with their wish the two gardens should be linked."
Since their deaths thousands of motorcycle fanatics from around the world have descended on the Co Antrim market town of Ballymoney. Joey's family runs a bar in the town full of the late star's paraphernalia.
The council has been dealing with a request to link the gardens since 2009.
A spokeswoman said as there were different views expressed by family members, the council deferred taking a decision on the request in the hope that a consensus would emerge.
Without any agreement, the council considered the matter at a recent meeting and, having taken account of the reasons advanced by both supporters and objectors, decided to create a linking path between its memorial gardens to the two honorary freemen of the borough.
The work should be completed in the next few weeks. Care will be taken not to disturb the gardens, which are council property.
The spokeswoman added: "Council is saddened that it has not been possible for all involved to agree a common position on the matter, but is persuaded that the decision it has taken is the correct one in all the circumstances."