'George Best Airport' splits city

BELFAST City Airport is to be renamed George Best Airport, it was announced yesterday, a decision that has divided the city.

A ceremony unveiling the new signage has been planned for 22 May, on what would have been Best's 60th birthday.

The former Manchester United and Northern Ireland international footballer died last November.

An estimated 2.2 million passengers use the airport in east Belfast each year and the decision to rename it followed management meetings with Best's father, Dickie, and close relatives.

Brian Ambrose, the airport's chief executive, said: "George Best was the finest footballer Northern Ireland has ever produced and one of the greatest footballers to grace the world stage, and a man who the public had great affection for.

"We believe that renaming the airport after George is a fitting and permanent tribute to his footballing brilliance."

But a poll by a local radio station found 48 per cent of city residents opposed to the move.

Even though Barbara McNarry, Best's sister, spoke of her pride at the honour, she accepted that others had reservations.

But she was taken aback by the ferocity of some of those opposed to the renaming.

She said: "We do fully understand that there are people who perhaps don't agree with it. But there's nothing more that the family can do.

"If the family have been honoured in this way, I don't know what on earth we are expected to do but accept it very gratefully."