Putting Up A Good Front For The G8

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County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland is hosting this year's G8 Summit. To spruce up the recession-hit area, the county has created some fake storefronts. Host Rachel Martin speaks with District Council member Brendan Hegarty.


Like a lot of Northern Ireland, County Fermanagh, where the G8 Summit is being held has been hit hard by the recession in recent years. A lot of businesses there have had to close their doors. But before world leaders started pouring in for the G8 Summit, county officials decided to give their town a bit of a facelift. With money from a government grant, they put fake storefronts on some of the shuttered businesses. Imagine big stickers plastered to store windows to make them look like thriving stores; a real butcher shop or a busy cafe.

We reached out to a district councilmember, Brendan Hegarty to explain.

BRENDAN HEGARTY: Certainly there was an element of what we refer to in the scheme as window dressing. But it's certainly not to the extent that it has been promoted in many facets of the media. For example, within Enniskillen, a principal town in the county, there were six premises in total to which window dressing was applied. And only three of those are actually in the town center.

I would also emphasize that the premises involved, they're not derelict premises. They're not shuttered premises. Each and every one of those premises is capable of occupation immediately, so it's not as if they're derelict.

MARTIN: But there are no businesses operating under there at the moment.

HEGARTY: No, a small number where they are not and it was really just for the aesthetics of the street, to complement all of the other work that has been done.

MARTIN: You would think that perhaps local officials, you might want the world to know that you'd been hit pretty hard by the recession.

HEGARTY: We're not immune from the impact of the recession. But I know in some media reports that have been reported that we've been hit disproportionately. I don't necessarily agree with that. Our unemployment rate is about 5.1 percent, which is actually below the Northern Ireland average. And one of our strongest, I suppose, industries as well is tourism and that's where we're particularly delighted that Prime Minister Cameron decided to bring the G8 Summit to Fermanagh because that gives us an opportunity to showcase our county, and to allow it to shine on the world stage.

MARTIN: Has anyone accidentally tried to walk into one of these businesses where it's just a fake sticker on the outside?

HEGARTY: I'm not aware that they have.


HEGARTY: I have to say they are quite difficult to spot if you actually do go looking for them. At the same time, I think if you were standing right up beside them at the door, you would have to ask yourself questions if you actually thought that they were for real.


MARTIN: Brendan Hegarty is County Fermanagh's district council officer. The G8 Summit starts there tomorrow.

Mr. Hagerty, thanks so much for talking with us.

HEGARTY: OK. Thank you, Rachel. Good morning.

MARTIN: And with world leaders gathering for G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, we'll take a closer look at the city of Belfast tomorrow, through the eyes of an Irish crime novelist, Stuart Neville. It's a new season of our annual summer book series, Crime in the City, that and the day's top news on NPR's MORNING EDITION.

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