Northern Ireland builds a Potemkin Village for the G8

The G8 Summit is coming to Fermanagh, a county in Northern Ireland that has been devastated by austerity. To spruce things up and maintain the fiction that austerity will get us out of the global economic depression, the county has spent £300,000 giving local businesses "a facelift" -- including installing a fake butcher-shop window full of imaginary meat in a derelict storefront.

Two shops in Belcoo, right on the border with Blacklion, Co Cavan, have been painted over to appear as thriving businesses. The reality, as in other parts of the county, is rather more stark.

Just a few weeks ago, Flanagan’s – a former butcher’s and vegetable shop in the neat village – was cleaned and repainted with bespoke images of a thriving business placed in the windows. Any G8 delegate passing on the way to discuss global capitalism would easily be fooled into thinking that all is well with the free-market system in Fermanagh..

The butcher’s business has been replaced by a picture of a butcher’s business. Across the road is a similar tale. A small business premises has been made to look like an office supplies store. It used to be a pharmacy, now relocated on the village main street.

Elsewhere in Fermanagh, billboard-sized pictures of the gorgeous scenery have been located to mask the occasional stark and abandoned building site or other eyesore.

Recession out of the picture as Fermanagh puts on a brave face for G8 leaders [Dan Keenan/Irish Times]

(via The Atlantic)


  1. Spending £300,000 on a fake facelift is responsible policy, but putting that money into actually developing the economy is welfare?

    Austerity genius…

    1. You just don’t understand.

      The important people that are visiting will have to see this village.

      1. BTW, the local people can undo this facelift for a lot less money I should think.

        1.  Would that be a reference to the “excel error” story? Oops, I think I just killed the frog.

  2. This is a bit like Terry Gilliam predicted the future would be in the movie Brazil.

  3. “…a county in Northern Ireland that has been devastated by austerity.”

    That’s not how you spell “decades of highly publicised terrorism scaring away both outside investment and anyone with somewhere else to go”.

    Fair call on the Potemkin village though.

    1. The border villages boom and bust depending on which side of the border offers the best deals, residents will cross the border to get cheaper petrol for example. It might also be relevant that Blacklion has a excellent butcher (or at least did the last time I was there).
      Terrorism hasn’t been a factor for well over a decade. The Good Friday agreement was in 1998. The biggest local issue is probably the rise and fall off Sean Quinn – a local businessman who got rich during the celtic tiger

  4. “Recession out of the picture as Fermanagh puts on a brave face for G8 leaders.”The title itself is too rich, lol. In fact, I think I’m gonna barf.

    1. That’s really special. We should all order our lives based on your childhood.

    1.  It might stimulate the economy, the economy of “fake cardboard business”, we can reactivate the whole economy with a new grow plan based on substituting every derelict building, bankrupt business, and homeless chap with nice cardboard cut-outs.
      It´s a win-win situation! 

      1. Can’t speak for Fermanagh, but take a drive around non-central Belfast and the streets are littered with those fake shop fronts. They are even more depressing than the sectarian murals which used to be so popular. 

  5. The phrase “Potemkin village” comes from a tour that Prince Potemkin organized for Catherine the Great, through a large swath of what’s now Ukraine.   The Russian army had won it  from the Ottomans, and Potemkin had been placed in charge of re-settling Russians there and organizing its administration.  After about ten years of this, Catherine wanted to see how progress was coming along, so she had Potemkin show her the sights.  Naturally, she brought a large portion of the court with her, so it was a large party – including diplomats from a number of European countries.
    The French ambassador in particular was writing letters home all the time about how ridiculous and backward Russia was (he seems to be the chief source for the rumor about Catherine and her horse), and he wrote that Potemkin hadn’t actually accomplished anything – that he was faking it by setting up a portable village every night so that Catherine could smile and wave at it in the morning, and that Catherine was stupid enough to fall for it.
    This story certainly fit the expectations of his audience; it also suited the Communists when they came to power (they loved stories, like “Lieutenant Kijé”, of how corrupt and gullible the tsarist regime had been), and it’s passed into the lexicon.  And hey!  people, and politicians, pull the same trick all the time – as in this story.  So it’s convenient to have a simple phrase like “Potemkin village” as shorthand.
    The only problem is that more-recent scholarship shows that it’s probably not true.  Of course Potemkin sent advance parties to make sure that the villages that were going to be visited looked their best – wouldn’t you?  But it appears that those villages already did – and in most cases, still do – exist where Catherine visited them; Potemkin really had been doing his job for those ten years (and getting incredibly rich doing it).  

    (For more, see Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “Prince of Princes”, and his avalanche of footnotes.  It’s compelling but exhausting.)

    Oh, and by the way – it’s “pah-TYOM-kin”, not “POH-tem-kin”.

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