Belfast Telegraph

Gail Walker: The Dunlops represent the best of us in a way understood right across our so-called divide

The death of William is a tragedy that unites us in common grief for family synonymous with road racing, writes Gail Walker

There have been far too many occasions over the last half century when we in Northern Ireland have been stopped in our tracks by tragedy. Often those were too frequent to allow for proper evaluation of the sorrow, sometimes the scale of the loss of life was so great that it couldn't be absorbed quickly, properly registered or in any way understood.

Occasionally, over those years, there were deaths which seemed to gather the entire population for a time in one place of desperate grief, or deep sympathy, or profound sense of common loss.

The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Raymond Campbell The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Victor Gibson - Pamela Anderson - The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Adam Carroll The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Daniel Dunlop The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The remains of William Dunlop return to the family home in Gracehill, Ballymoney on July 10th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

At no point have we become blasé about sudden, unexpected death or found our condolences turn routine, formulaic and unfelt.

At times, indeed, the breaking news of bereavement has hit many thousands of households at the one time with a memorable impact which will not easily be forgotten, if at all.

Such an occurrence was the death of William Dunlop at last weekend's Skerries 100 Road Race.

The 32-year-old Ballymoney motorbike ace is the third member of the legendary road racing family to have died competing in the sport they loved.

His father Robert was killed during practice at the 2008 North West 200 - is there anyone who does not know the details of this sad story? - while his uncle, the iconic Joey Dunlop, winner of 26 Isle of Man TTs, lost his life 18 years ago racing in Estonia.

The news of those two fatal accidents, when it broke, is still spoken of in awed tones by those who remember the terrible dramas they provoked. It was a matter of faces so familiar, voices so distinctive, lives lived so fairly and without the sour taint of so much of Ulster life, being smashed on the roadside with neither pity nor mercy.

For many, the truth, the raw brutality of their public lives in the saddle, rendered us mute, stunned at our inadequacy to the situation those two men brought into our living rooms.

William represented the next generation, but it was one also driven, literally, by the challenge distance throws out to speed.

Road racers are a breed unto themselves. Single-minded, focused to a frightening degree, risk-takers like no others, they epitomise all the madness that characterised explorers of the past, mountaineers, pioneers of the unknown and the dangerous. Sadly, even in our day, the price for the exhilaration of the lonely places, out there on the road at top speed, is a desperately high one.

So, just as there was shock and a building sense of empathy with William's loved ones who had already lost so much, there was also the dull familiarity of the anguish. No one expected such bad news or anticipated that bad news in particular. But by the same token, nothing about the tragedy was impossible, nothing that hadn't already been feared if unspoken, nothing that couldn't have been imagined in the worst thoughts.

So when we read details of William's pulling out of this year's TT in order to spend time with his partner Janine Brolly, who is expecting their second child in September, that news can only be met with more sorrow. Or when we hear that his brother Michael was on the same practice lap when the fatal accident occurred, we can only marvel at how cruel lives can be.

The other factor in our common bond with the extended Dunlop family is their massive grace, their blunt honesty. William's cousin Cathy Laverty described the family as in a "state of disbelief". They were "not very good at all", she said.

Sometimes what is understated carries the hardest emotional punch. As a community, we of course reach out also to William's mum Louise and the family matriarch May, William's grandmother and mother to Joey and Robert.

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 23/8/2017: William Dunlop on the start line for practice at the Classic TT.
PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 23/8/2017: William Dunlop on the start line for practice at the Classic TT. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
William Dunlop racing during practice at Skerries today. Pacemaker
William Dunlop racing during practice at Skerries today. PACEMAKEER BELFAST 07/07/2018
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 7/7/2018: William Dunlop in action on the Temple Golf Club Yamaha during practice for the Skerries 100 today. William died in crash during the session. PICTURE BY DEREK WILSON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 7/7/2018: Gardai at the scene where William Dunlop suffered a fatal crash during practice for the Skerries 100 today.
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 9th May 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 practice sessions. Pictured: Paul Jordan and William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Northern Ireland- 13th August 2014 Mandatory Credit - Matt Mackey/Presseye.com William Dunlop in action on board his superbike at practice for the Dundrod 150 and Ulster Grand Prix road races.
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 2010: Michael and William Dunlop in their father Robert's Memorial Garden in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 20/3/2017: William Dunlop with his Caffrey International R6 Yamaha he will race in the Supersport class in 2017. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 25/8/2017: Michael and William Dunlop at Classic TT practice tonight. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2014: William Dunlop celebrates after winning the opening Superbike race at the Vauxhall International North West 200. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
William Dunlop and his partner Janine arrive at the Adelaide Motorcycle Awards in Belfast in 2014. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/1/2014.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 03/06/13: Brothers Michael (MD Racing Honda) and William Dunlop (Milwaukee Yamaha) in the winners enclosure after finishing first and third in the opening Monster Energy supersport race on his MD Racing Honda at the 2013 Isle of Man TT PHOTO BY STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 23/1/2015: That's my boy! William Dunlop, winner of the Race of the Year category at the Adelaide Motorbike awards with his mother Louise. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
William Dunlop at the Armoy Road Races in 2016. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th April 2017 Cookstown 100 Road Races. Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 1/5/2015: William Dunlop during Tandragee 100 practice. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 William Dunlop (Tyco BMW Motorrad Racing) during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 24/7/2015: William Dunlop (CD Racing Yamaha) celebrates winning the opening 600cc race at the Armoy road races on Friday evening. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2017 Isle of Man TT Practice Week Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Mandatory Credit: Rowland White / PressEye Motor Cycling: Tandragee 100 Venue: Tandragee Date: 1st May 2015 Caption: William Dunlop
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th August 2016 Practice sessions for the Plant Lubrication Dundrod 150 and the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix get underway. Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 Pictured: William Dunlop with fans. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 07th June 2017 Isle of Man TT RL360 Quantum Superstock Race Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th August 2017 Dundrod 150 Gym Co Ultralightweight / Lightweight Race Pictured: Paul Jordan and William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th August 2017 Ulster Grand Prix & Dundrod 150 Practice Pictured: William Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Mandatory Credit: Rowland White PressEye Road Racing: Cooktown 100 Venue: Orritor Date: 30th April 2016 Race: Supersport 2 Caption: William Dunlop celebrates
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 3rd June 2013 Mandatory Credit - Brian Little/ Presseye William Dunlop (Milwaukee Yamaha) at Creg-Ny-Baa during Monday's Royan London 360 Superstock Race over the Mountain Course during the IOM TT 2013.
Northern Ireland- 13th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Picture - Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Vauxhall International 2014 North West 200. Tuesday practice. William Dunlop Tyco.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 26th April 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.com Cookstown 100 road races practice evening. Ballymoney rider William Dunlop.
PACEMAKER BELFAST, 9/5/2006: Robert Dunlop is the most successful rider in the history of the North West 200 with 14 wins and as he goes for win 15 in 2006 he will have strong competition from his own sons Michael and William. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST,2007: The Dunlop family enjoyed a winning day at teh Mid Antrim 150 with Michael, Dad Robert and William all winning a race apiece. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 2008: Robert Dunlop and his three sons Daniel, Michael and William. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

This is more than a family tragedy. The Dunlops represent the best of us in a way understood across the boundaries of faith and culture and politics.

The sporting triumphs, of course, helped build that - these were champions from our own small fields and lanes. But it was the way they carried themselves, with grace, dignity, modesty, even amid adulation and heroic feats on the roads; the way they spoke unashamedly with the slow drawl of their native Ballymoney, displaying a pride in their rural Antrim roots; the way the family established the Joey Dunlop Foundation to enable disabled fans to watch the sport up close.

Joey regularly loaded up a van with food and clothing and drove across Europe to deliver parcels to the orphans of war in poverty-hit Romania, Bosnia and Albania. That wasn't publicity; that was kindness, decency, neighbourliness even, for people just like themselves on the other edge of Europe. That was typical of the Dunlops.

It's no ordinary family. DUP leader Arlene Foster was right to highlight the local and the international when she said that William "will be forever remembered for his many achievements, both in Ballymoney and across the world".

As the news broke, townspeople and many from the motorcycle fraternity made their way to the Joey and Robert Dunlop Memorial Garden in Ballymoney to place flowers, to say a prayer, or leave a silent condolence, or simply find companions in their sorrow. Just ordinary people. Said one biker: "The news about William is just devastating. He was a quiet fella, he went about his racing, did well, didn't make a lot of noise. Just a humble, decent lad - the whole family were heroes. Road racing is a family in itself, and they all feel the loss."

We often overlook the importance of motorsport in our communal life.

Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 09/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on Monday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left in the Dunlop Memorial Gardens in Ballymoney for road racer William Dunlop who died following a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 race in Fingal, County Dublin. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Flowers left in the Dunlop Memorial Gardens in Ballymoney for road racer William Dunlop who died following a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 race in Fingal, County Dublin. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Flowers left in the Dunlop Memorial Gardens in Ballymoney for road racer William Dunlop who died following a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 race in Fingal, County Dublin.
Flowers left in the Dunlop Memorial Gardens in Ballymoney for road racer William Dunlop who died following a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 race in Fingal, County Dublin. Flowers were left for the 32-year-old from Ballymoney at a memorial for his father Robert who also died during a road race in 2008. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 8/07/2018 Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Dunlop Memorial garden in Ballymoney on sunday for road racer William Dunlop, Who was killed during practice event on Saturday at Skerries. William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Who knows why motors and speed lie so close to our hearts? Maybe it's the leftover of our engineering heritage. Or maybe it's the final Northern Irish rebellion. After all, we are a society wedded to caution, slowness, orthodoxy. We distrust the flashy, the fashionable, the fast. But oddly, paradoxically, perversely, it's a curiously accepted channel of rebellion.

Or perhaps, like Country and Irish, it's the last picture of ourselves as an essentially "frontier" people staring forever into the horizon at literal and metaphorical unknowns.

No words can convey the full dimensions of Saturday's tragedy, but this week thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands perhaps, will in different ways be 'paying their respects'.

Contrary to the stereotype, the passion for speed transcends the traditional divide. In fact, it's one of our common languages, one of the unspoken understandings we have, one big part of our shared inheritance.

William Dunlop dead in Skerries testifies to that. The racing, you won't be surprised to learn, continued on Sunday at the request of this dreadfully bereaved family. The Garda, closing the roads so the racers could do what they do, included a brief salute on Twitter to a man who broke every ordinary road safety rule in the book the rest of us drive by, and will be remembered very fondly and forever because of it.

Belfast Telegraph

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