Will Enniskillen get a real makeover for G8... or will it just be window dressing like Portrush was given?
Siting the G8 summit in Fermanagh next year is already paying a dividend for Enniskillen.
The town is getting cash to tidy up the main square, but there are suspicions the windfall may simply be part of a cosmetic exercise to make it look better for visiting dignitaries.
A similar exercise was carried out in Portrush in advance of the Irish Open — with some of the improvements, like trees brought in to screen a derelict building — removed after the event was over.
The square has been allocated a pre-Christmas present of £250,000 for a major makeover, but there is already speculation that much of that money will be spent on putting shutters painted with scenes of commerce over empty shops and eyesores.
Visiting world leaders would then see an apparently thriving town centre as they pass through on their way to and from the summit, rather than one hit by the economic downturn.
United States President Barack Obama will join the leaders of France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada as well as UK PM David Cameron for the two-day event on June 17 and 18 which is expected to focus on the world economy.
Glynn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retailers’ Association said he welcomed the money — even if it was simply to disguise empty outlets.
“It’s very important that our town centres look as attractive as possible and dereliction is a major problem so we applaud what the minister is trying to do.
Stormont ministers also plan to fast-track a ‘masterplan’ blueprint for rejuvenation of the commercial centre in time for the June meeting.
DUP Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland warned that the proposals must not result in the area becoming a building site just in time for the summit.
“There is no point in commencing any substantial site works in the town centre if there is a prospect that the improvements cannot be completed before the end of May 2013 at the latest,” he told MLAs.
Mr McCausland said work on the masterplan proposals had been due to start in the autumn of next year, but added: “I have asked my officials to accelerate portions of the scheme that can be delivered ahead of the G8 summit.
“I have committed £250,000 in the past week to fund a revitalisation programme in the town that will include shopfront dressing and shuttering works, provision of a marquee and pop-up stalls for use in public spaces, and town centre lighting.”
DSD has already provided over £3m towards the cost of the regeneration of Enniskillen and the additional extensive public realm scheme is estimated at over £5m.