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Robert Dunlop:
"We have been touched by the tributes to Joey"
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Friday, 7 July, 2000, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Dunlop makes final journey
Funeral cortege
Thousands follow Joey Dunlop's coffin
Thousands of mourners have paid their last respects to sporting legend Joey Dunlop whose funeral has taken place near his home town in Northern Ireland.

Dunlop, 48, a five-times world champion and one of the province's greatest sporting heroes, died in a racing accident in Estonia on Sunday.

Thousands of people - including friends, biking enthusiasts and fans - attended his funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian Church, near Ballymoney, County Antrim.

Bikers travelled from as far away as New Zealand and South Africa.

Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon represented the Northern Ireland Assembly while sports ministers from the Irish Republic, UK and Isle of Man governments also attended.

After a private service at the family home, thousands of fans lined the mile-and-a-half route as the cortege made its way to the church, where Dunlop was baptised and where he celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary in 1998.

Dunlop's widow, Linda, and five children, Julie, Donna, Gary, Richard and Joanne, walked behind the hearse. Orange boiler suited North West 200 race marshalls formed a guard of honour.

His brother, Robert, also a biking star, helped carry the coffin.

Among masses of wreaths, three stood out, stating simply - "Daddy", "Joey" and "3" - the biker's race number.

We have all lost someone personally dear to us - the people's champion

Reverend John Kirkpatrick
UK sports minister Kate Hoey said Dunlop was "an ordinary person, doing extraordinary things".

The Irish Republic's sports minister, Jim McDaid, said Dunlop was a "great sporting hero" and "a man for all seasons and for all people".

Sporting personalities, including Formula One racing driver Eddie Irvine, were among the mourners.

A letter from Irish President Mary McAleese was read at the service.

Thousands of floral tributes lined the adjacent graveyard, where Dunlop was laid to rest.

Reverend John Kirkpatrick, minister of Portrush Presbyterian Church and honorary chaplain to the Motorcycle Union of Ireland, paid tribute to the biking hero.

'Sad hearts'

Speaking during the funeral service, Mr Kirkpatrick, a former minister of Garryduff, said there had been a communal expression of loss in the community.

"We have all lost someone personally dear to us - the people's champion.

"Here today, and in many different parts of the world, there are thousands of sad hearts, each with their memories and stories.

Joey Dunlop
Joey Dunlop: Death shocked world

"Memories of family, friend, spectator and fan, promoter, sponsor, reporter, team member, fellow competitor. It would require all these to be added together to adequately pay the fitting tribute."

He said Dunlop was a person who had achieved "greatness against all the odds".

"His humble background and early struggles did not prevent the man with exceptional talent from rising to the top.

"In his sport he made the difficult look easy, nearly poetic and the dangerous look safe."

Mr Kirkpatrick said that Dunlop's "courage on the track" was matched by his compassion for others off it, referring to his charity work.

Friends and fans pay tribute outside Joey's bar
Friends and fans pay tribute outside Joey's bar
He said he was a "quiet and private person seeking no personal glory yet so willing to help others."

Reverend John Gilkinson, minister of Garryduff Presbyterian Church said everyone would be wondering why the accident happened.

He said: "We will never fully understand why, this side of eternity.

"Even if we did have a full explanation, it wouldn't bring Joey back to us and it wouldn't heal our aching, breaking hearts."

The town's council and the police had prepared for the expected influx of people into the town, with traffic diversions, extra parking and a playing field site for 500 campers.

Earlier, there were appeals for a halt to Drumcree-related protests during Dunlop's funeral.

The protests caused delays to the cortege bringing his coffin home from Dublin Airport on Tuesday night.

Dunlop won in the Isle of Man TT races a record 26 times and was dubbed "king of the road".

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See also:

06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Family touched by Dunlop tributes
05 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Sad return of sporting hero
03 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
NI mourns sporting hero
02 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Death of road racing hero
02 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Tributes to 'king of the road'
03 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
'King' Dunlop's road to fame
15 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Road racer honoured
03 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Dunlop wins TT race
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