Northern Ireland

G8 fake shop fronts make headlines

fake shops
Image caption The "fake" shop fronts have made headlines in America

Fermanagh is having a £1m makeover as it prepares to host the G8 summit and the world's media in June.

For the last month shoppers have had to dodge ladders and scaffolding as dozens of painters have given a fresh coat of paint to 150 shops and businesses in Enniskillen.

Some empty shops and restaurants in towns and villages throughout the county have also had photographic images attached to their windows to make them look like thriving businesses.

One, a former butcher's shop in Belcoo, appears to have an open door leading into a shop stocked full of fresh meat, but it has been locked up for more than a year.

These "fake" shop fronts have made headlines on the other side of the Atlantic.

Critics say it is a shallow attempt by the council to make the place look better than it actually is and an attempt to put a mask on a recession that has hit the local area very badly.

Complaining

The Chief Executive of Fermanagh District Council Brendan Hegarty feels the criticism is unfair as the county does not have a significant problem with dereliction.

"A lot of the work that we did under the spruce-up scheme was landscaping work, screening work.

"It was aimed at, for example, undeveloped sites at the entrance to the town and then right throughout the county in terms of the other towns and villages looking at those vacant properties and really just trying to make them look better and more aesthetically pleasing.

"I can accept some people have reservations about it but it was a source of funding that was open for a very narrow window and I think that those involved have done a very good job in the short period of time in terms of the work that has been carried out."

Belcoo resident John Timoney says that the fake shop has helped to make the village look better and that it is money well spent.

"It's a very, very well done job now, one couldn't find any fault with it.

"I'm surprised there's not people knocking at the door to get in, it looks so alive, you know.

"I think it's a good way of making the village look good, yes, it did look terrible bad and it certainly has made a difference."

You won't find too many painters complaining either, unless you're talking about the weather.

Donald Hannigan is hoping for a few more dry days to get the work done in time.

He said: "It just seems to be everyone's painting here in Enniskillen, painters can't be got - we're from Ballyshannon (in Co Donegal).

"The town looks fantastic, it's a good excuse for people to get doing work so another few dry days will sort the whole thing out.

"I think it's brilliant, at least its generating a bit of work around the town and on top of that it's bringing a bit of money into the town like everybody's getting something out of it.

"I know they say it's going to cost an awful lot of money generally for the taxpayer but it won't do any harm - it will put the town on the map anyway for good reasons."

More on this story