With the globe’s most powerful figures descending on their doorstep, bringing with them the attention of the world, it is not surprising that the authorities near to next month’s G8 summit have tried to spruce the place up a bit.
But officials have been accused of going too far after they plastered large stickers across boarded up shops in order to give them the appearance of still-thriving businesses.
Locals in the area have criticised the move, which they say masks the effects of the economic downturn and is a waste of resources.
The large stickers have been fixed to closed down stores near to the Lough Erne resort, in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, which will host next month’s meeting of the leaders of eight of the world’s richest countries, among them Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and François Hollande.
The site was selected by David Cameron – as Britain is the current chairman of the G8 – and he said it would be a “brilliant advertisement” for Northern Ireland. But businesses in the area have suffered in recent years, leaving many vacant sites which are now being disguised by the local council.
One set of stickers have been fixed to a former butchers in Belcoo, on the border between the province and the Republic.
They show the shop – which traded as Flanagan’s until it went out of business about a year ago – still fully stocked with a selection of fresh meat on display. A sticker pasted on a closed door even shows an open door and an apparently well-adorned interior. Another set of stickers have been put up in the windows of a former pharmacy in the village, to give the vacant site the appearance of an office supply stores.
In nearby Maguiresbridge, a “fake” coffee shop has been depicted in another vacant property, while in Garrison, a derelict house has been given the appearance of a much-loved, occupied home.
Phil Flanagan, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and a relative of the former owner of Belcoo’s butcher shop, said: “These fake buildings are in every town and village in Fermanagh now. People are amused by them. No one is fooled. It is like when your mother-in-law is coming to visit and you give the house a tidy up.
“It is not part of regeneration. It is just for the G8. It is a case of papering over the cracks and putting out lies about the economy. Most people seem to think it is a waste of money.”
As well as the fake interiors, other images have been fixed to boarded up shops. An empty shopping centre in Enniskillen has been decorated with large photo displays of local picturesque sites.
The work is being overseen by Fermanagh District Council, with funding from the province’s Department for Social Development.
In total, more than 100 properties near the Lough Erne five star hotel and golf resort have been tidied up or redecorated, including Enniskillen’s Clinton Centre, opened by the former US president on the site of the 1987 IRA bombing of a Remembrance Sunday service, which has been given a cream makeover.