Facelift to smarten City of Culture
Next year's UK City of Culture is being given a facelift to hide graffiti and dereliction on the streets once blighted by some of the worst violence from Northern Ireland's troubled past.
Dilapidated buildings and rundown areas in Londonderry are to be transformed as part of a £500,000 clean-up operation announced by Stormont's Environment Minister.
The work will include enhancement of the Derry's historic walls as well as tackling prominent eyesores close to the city centre.
"Derry City will be very much in the international spotlight next year as UK City of Culture," said Environment Minister Alex Attwood.
"Over half a million pounds of funding will go a long way towards ridding the city of derelict eyesores. If we want tourists to stay longer, if we want more tourists to come, then tackling major eyesores and dereliction will certainly help."
Derry is where the Troubles broke out in 1969. During the height of the 40-year conflict it was marred by some of the worst scenes of violence including the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre where British paratroopers opened fire, killing 14 civilians during a civil rights march.
More recently, the city has been targeted by dissident republicans who have twice planted explosives outside the offices of those organising next year's festivities. The actions of the dissidents have prompted hundreds of people to take to the streets to protest for peace.
Mr Attwood said he hoped the regeneration scheme would also provide a much-needed boost for Derry's struggling economy.
He added: "Only this week, Derry was named fourth best city in the world to visit in 2013 by the Lonely Planet Guide and initiatives like this all help to cement that position. Let's not forget that the citizens of Derry will also benefit with the character of their built environment improved.
"Our built and natural heritage are essential elements of our economy and jobs. They will be the biggest part of future increases in tourist numbers and spend. Growing tourism from a £500 million to a £1 billion-a-year industry will revolve around the positive protection and development of this heritage."