Robert Dunlop dies

Robert Dunlop has died in hospital after an accident at a practice session for the North West 200. His brother Joey was killed in a motorcycle race in Estonia in 2000. The BBC has tributes to Robert here, the Belfast Telegraph has an obituary here.

Update: Robert’s son Michael has won the first race at the North West (the 250cc)

  • realist

    My thoughts are with the Dunlop family at this time.

    When is someone going to call an end to this madness that they call road racing? The pill is going to have to be swallowed and everyone will have to accept getting their kicks on short circuits. It can’t go on like this.

  • pacman

    Sad news. I won’t pretend to be a motor racing fan but despite this, when I was growing up, everyone knew the name of Joey and perhaps to a lesser extent Robert, if only for that practically intelligible accent.

    My condolences to his family and friends and I have to agree with Realist that given the number of deaths attributed to road racing in the last number of years at competitions like this, it is perhaps time for a step back and consider a new way of taking the sport forward in a far safer manner.

  • pacman

    unintelligible of course.

  • CS Parnell

    Sad news. Though I wonder why people take part in this sport when it is so dangerous.

    More generally, would someone explain to me why this sport is so fantastically popular amoungst unionists/protestants and all bug ignored by nationalists/catholics. At least that is how it is in greater Belfast.

  • willowfield

    CS Parnell – I didn’t realise that was the case.

    But now that you mention it, maybe it is more of a Protestant thing – certainly north Antrim seems to be the main “hotbed”, which is a mainly Protestant area.

    There was a Dublin rider killed at Cookstown last week, though.

  • CS Parnell


    It never really struck me until a few years ago when I realised how interested the “other side” was in the sport, when for me and everyone on “my side” it was just something that went on in the background.

    Maybe I am wrong about this, though. Would be geneuinely interested to know what others feel about it.

    The North Antrim thing struck me too – but then not many Catholics from the glens seem to be interested.

  • The Armoy Armada. When will they ever learn?

  • ggn

    Robert Dunlop RIP.

    Please let us not drag any other issue into this thread, leave the rest for next week.

  • Willowfield, perhaps we should look at our motor-cycling MLAs for more of this pattern: Ian Paisley jnr, David Burnside and Sammy Wilson.

  • Realist


    Have you noticed how Catholics eyes seem to be closer together and they seem to eat more potatoes than Prods? (Tongue stuck very firmly in cheek)

    Wise up!

  • CS Parnell

    It is not sectarian to ask a question about cultural differences. There is certainly no judgement of value being passed here at all.

    Seems that for some the old “whatever you say, say nothing” rule applies.

    You know, Northern Ireland will remain a broken society if we refuse to even discuss what makes us different and what makes us the same.

    The people who should wise up are those who don’t even want to acknoledge the differences exist. And there is no disprespect to any road racer if we actually discuss the cultural significance of the sport in Norrthern Ireland.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Mr Parnell is quite correct. In mid-Ulster, in general, the Irish/nationalist contingent have no interest in it whatsoever.Still sad about the 2nd Dulop,however.

  • pacman

    I think I can also speak on behalf of South Down/South Armagh where is is also non-issue – the closest being Tandragee where I believe an annual meet takes place.

    Having said that, living in Newry, I notice a massive increase in bike riders from the south passing through around this time of year obviously on their way to Antrim. So perhaps the disinterest in Catholic/Nationalist circles is a northern thing only?

  • Pacman, have you checked the number plates? Perhaps some of those riders are coming in through southern ports. There’ll be a convoy of bikes on Saturday evening making their way down the coast road to Larne to catch the ferry.

  • pacman

    There are quite few of those also Nevin but there is a distinct rise in the number of southern plates on the roads and in particular, at the Fiveways service station where they seem to refresh themselves before the onward journey.

  • CS Parnell

    It may be a generational thing too.

    My grandfather – died before I was born – was a big TT fan.

    (But then again his grandfather was from the Shankill and married a Catholic)

    But perhaps the troubles just meant people didn’t mix even at these events and so Catholic interest wilted?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Re. Prods and bikes – perhaps it’s a case that if one side establishes an interest the other side decides its not for them – a bit like sibling behaviour/rivalry.

  • CS Parnell

    Sammy – that would hardly explain why Sinn Fein and DUP voters are equally devolted to the cause of Manchester United.

  • Philip McNeill

    Totally agree with Pancho’s Horse on May 16, 2008 @ 12:34 PM comments.

    Always wondered why anyone would like this sport myself but then they could say the same to why i liked what i liked. Hope they do a slow lap as a mark of respect.

    Dunlop RIP or in the fast lane as the case may be 🙂

  • RG Cuan

    Have to say i’m not a big fan of the sport but Robert Dunlop’s death is very sad news indeed.

    I remember well when Joey Dunlop died – i was working in the Donegal Gaeltacht and when the Bean a’Tí i was staying with heard about the motorcyclist’s crash she was distraught. Donegal’s pretty big for rally driving and it was the first time i realised how popular motorsport actually is.

    I would say that motorcycling etc is more popular among unionists. Can’t think of any particular reason other than that nationalists have always had a strong affiliation to GAA and all other sports took a secondly role.

  • waffler

    Have to agree with Pacman and wish i could get £1
    a bike or car with southern reg travelling to the venue and having attended the N/W on many occassions,have never heard politics or religion mentioned.
    When interviewed on tele Robert explained at not having a full bike lic as he didn`t drive on the
    roads with normal traffic believing it to be too dangerous.
    As like Joey before him a gentleman who will be sadly missed.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    CS Parnell

    football teams are probably not the best example of non sectarian involvement – but I take your point. However there may be a difference with motor sport in that you have to turn up at the event in Non Iron when the other side has already claimed that sporting territory.

  • seimi

    North County Dublin is a hotbed of support for road racing, all round Skerries, Rush, and Lusk (where the rider killed last week was from)

  • roadrider

    i’d love to know if those commenting on the cultural alleigances of road race fans have actually been to a race or met any of the racers or riders, it has always been a mixed sport especially after the demise of some northern centre tracks and the growth of tracks in the south.
    to those doing the usual ban it as we need saved from ourselves and keep it to the short circuits, which short circuit do you suggest. they are old, too short and not fit for purpose.
    however i hear there is a large disused piece of land perfect for a circuit outside lisburn.

  • McGrath

    RIP Robert Dunlop.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    “i’d love to know if those commenting on the cultural alleigances of road race fans have actually been to a race or met any of the racers or riders”

    The answer is no – but I never let my lack of knowledge stop me from jabbering about something.

  • McGrath

    I raced motorcycles in NI/ROI then moved to the United States and continued.

    To those calling for Road Racing to be banned, you will never understand it until you do it, and when you do it, you still wont completely understand it, but you will want to do it again.

    Motorcycle racing is expensive. In NI 40 years ago, members of the unionist community in general could afford it more than members of the nationalist community. Consequently there was more of an establishment in the Unionist community. In the ROI 40 years ago, there simple was less of it in general that in NI, again largely because of economic reasons, but it was there.

    Over the years it has grown and truly has become a mixed community sport, in all the time I raced (a nationalist) I never heard a single sectarian utterance. Most people who put that much money into a sport and make the time commitment are typically only thinking about motorcycles.

    The Motorcycle Union of Ireland (MCUI) is an all Ireland body made of of various member clubs, with the clubs hosting events. The northern clubs race on Saturdays, the southern clubs race on Sundays (typically), events are packed with riders and spectators from the north and south no matter which day of the weekend it is.

    There used to be a rule, no idea if it is still there, that recommended the use of the MCUI flag instead of either of the two national flags for instances where a flag would be used to start or finish a race.

    In motorcycle racing, you are not a prod or a taig, you are either fast or slow.

  • Greenflag

    Sad tragedy for a family that has already suffered .Condolences to the family RIP.

  • picador

    I can’t believe that some have chosen the event of Robert Dunlop’s tragic (if not entirely unpredictable) death to launch into a Prods v Taigs debate. Completely tasteless!

    RIP Robert Dunlop. RIP Joey.

    How many more have to die before this carnage is stopped?

  • Rory

    ” How many more have to die before this carnage is stopped?”

    A wee bit ott surely, Picador? One could ask the same of driving to work or doing the school run.

  • The Raven

    Living in the “hotbed” of Protestantism, that it has been alleged that the area is, I just wanted to add that we are all gutted by this.

    Life stops up here when these races are on. Fan or not of bike racing, it’s one of those events that you remember year on year since childhood. The loss of Dunlop No2 makes this year’s event all the more sad.

    “How many more have to die before this carnage is stopped?”

    It never stops. It’s in the blood.


  • Realist

    A very sad day for many, many sports fans in Northern Ireland, with the loss of Tommy Burns and Robert Dunlop.

    Tragic news.

    Calls for the banning of road racing are pointless – people will always want to road race their bikes.

    Better to allow those who wish to do it, do it in as safe as possible environment.

    It is worth noting that last night’s tragic accident was nothing to do with the road – Robert’s bike seized up.

    Had these been on a race track, the outcome could have been exactly the same.

    Robert was a reluctant celebrity/hero to thousands of people around the world – like his brother Joey.

    Rest In Peace Robert.

  • fair_deal

    My sympathies to the Dunlop family.

  • CS Parnell

    It’s a pity that some think the mere examination of the community roots of this sport is an attack on this or that tradition. As the person who started this i want to say it is not – it is merely an attempt to understand what makes us the same and what makes us different, nothing more, nothing less.

    Thanks to McGarth for his comments: again I want to make it clear that I am not for instant suggesting the sport is marred by sectarianism. I am, though, wondering why it is such hot property for unionists and very much take it or leave it for nationalists.

    I don’t want to upset anybody. I’m provincial enough, despite everything else, to be upset at the death of someone who has made our little north eastern enclave even a little bit more famous. My sympathies are with Robert Dunlop’s family – my interest is with the sociology of the sport he made so famous.

  • CS Parnell

    How can I put this?

    I love Irish rugby.

    I especially love it when an Ulster player comes on in the green.

    I know that no Ulster player is likely – in the immediate future (though I have been told this may change!) to be from my tradition.

    But to be from Ulster, to be the inheritor of Gibson, is enough.

    I have my views about the politics of the island. But I am also a local yokel.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    McGrath’s post seems plausible, about motorcycling being expensive in the past. I also wondered if it maybe had something to do with the historical circumstances of engineering in NI, where jobs in that industry would have been largely in the preserve of Protestants? Just a guess.

    Terribly sad news about Robert, especially for us north Antrim types.

  • iluvni

    The performance of Michael Dunlop today should be lauded by all. His courage and determination to come out and win the opening race for the memory of his dad was truly heroic.

    For me, no sporting performance will ever beat the sight of him roaring down the coast road in the lead on the way to victory.

  • Mustapha Mond

    CS Parnell
    “Though I wonder why people take part in this sport when it is so dangerous.”

    Some folk enjoy the thrill of speed and dont want to live in a hermetically sealed cotton wool lined bubble.