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Northern Ireland erects fake storefronts ahead of G8 summit

By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   June 5, 2013 at 3:50 PM   |   Comments

A golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland will host G8 leaders later this month, and local councils have painted fake storefronts and covered vacant buildings with billboards to hide the dereliction of local towns.

In the one-street town of Belcoo, a former butcher's shop has stickers applied to the windows show a packed meat counter. Across the street, another empty building has been made to look like a busy office supply shop.

The small towns and villages have been hit especially hard by economic hardship, and even the luxury five-star hotel where G8 leaders will meet has been in receivership since 2011.

Northern Ireland's government has spent 2.3 million euros (U.S.$3M) tackling dereliction over the past two years, and almost a quarter of those "dereliction funds" were put toward preparation for Britain hosting the annual Group of Eight leaders’ summit there on 17-18 June.

But RTÉ Ireland reports that locals are unimpressed. "Where would you see a shop front in Northern Ireland like this anyway?" asked Kevin Maguire, 62, an unemployed man who has lived all his life in Belcoo.

"The shop fronts are cosmetic surgery for serious wounds. They are looking after the banks instead of saving good businesses," he said.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood issued a statement saying it is "entirely right" to portray Northern Ireland "in the best light possible" while in the international spotlight.

"We should do everything we can to make these areas attractive for residents, tourists and consumers," Attwood said. "If we want tourists to visit and stay longer, then tackling major eyesores and dereliction will certainly help."

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