The Freedom of Ballymoney is to be awarded to the Borough’s leading sports star, Michael Dunlop, whose exploits in road racing has given him international status – and it is hoped that the fans who have loyally supported him down the years will have an opportunity to share in the occasion.
Official approval of the honour was unanimously passed at a meeting of the Council last week and is expected to take place early next year.
After a suggestion from Independent Councillor, Roma McAfee that the public should have an opportunity to celebrate Dunlop’s achievements, Alderman Bill Kennedy who put forward the Freedom motion, said this aspect would feature prominently in the ceremony.
“Of course, we will have to speak to Michael not only to fix a date but to agree procedures as to how the public could participate in the event. “This could be a meet and greet exercise, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Councillor Kennedy told the Times.
Michael Dunlop will become the third member of the Dunlop family to have received the Freedom award, joining his late dad, Robert and Uncle Joey, both legends in the sport.
Calling for the award, Alderman Kennedy, himself a leading player in motor cycling, said Michael began racing in 2005 and has enjoyed huge success ever since both local and nationally.
“Michael has shown determination and commitment and has continued the Dunlop tradition bringing great honour to the Borough,” he added.
Other councillors lined up to endorse the motion.
Councillor Mervyn Storey said the name Dunlop was not only synonymous with road racing in this part, but right across the UK and Europe.
Councillor Frank Campbell said it was important to maintain the prominence of the Dunlop name while Cllr.
Tom McKeown said Michael had become a local hero.
Cllr. McAfee also endorsed the motion but felt the public should also be allowed to celebrate the achievement.
Councillors Harry Connolly, Cecil Cousley, Jason Atkinson and the Mayor, Cllr. John Finlay were also supportive - the latter saying he watched Michael at Armoy road races and the speed involved would “scare you.”