Town factory linked to French row

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A DERELICT factory in Lurgan has caused a storm in the race for the French presidency.

In a bid to denounce current president Nicolas Sarkozy, presidential candidate Marine Le Pen used posters which included images of a derelict factory and a homeless man.

French National Front candidate Le Pen cited Sarkozy’s industrial strategy as the cause of derelict factories and homelessness in France.

However, she was left with egg on her face when it emerged the photo of the abandoned building was the old Rusch Medical Supplies factory on the Portadown Road in Lurgan and the picture of the homeless man was a stock image of a US model.

The man who took the photo of the derelict factory in Lurgan was Stefan Ray, a 29-year-old graphic designer from Portadown.

When the ‘MAIL’ tracked Stefan to Limerick, where he has been living for the past eight years, he was fascinated to learn where his photo had ended up.

“I’ve had pictures lifted before, but nothing this high profile,” he said.

“It’s crazy to think that a picture I took in 2008 in Lurgan has ended up on an election poster in France.”

Stefan told how he took several pictures inside Crumlin Road Court which appeared in some national papers last year without his permission being sought.

He said: “I don’t mind if they ask permission, I’m not looking for any fee, but it’s annoying when they just lift them.”

It appears his photo was accessed by the French National Party from the online photo-sharing service Flickr.

He added: “I can only imagine they did an image search for ‘abandoned factory’ and mine came up. It probably wasn’t on the first page. They maybe went a few pages back in the hope no one would notice.

“I might try and get in contact with whoever lifted the picture to get an explanation.”

Stefan took the photo in January 2008 as part of a series of snaps of abandoned buildings in the area.

He commented: “I like taking pictures of things people wouldn’t normally have access to. I would never break in and I leave nothing there apart from footprints in the dust.”

It remains to be seen whether the scandal over the ‘fake’ photos has put a serious dent in Le Pen presidential campaign, which is based on a strong anti-immigration stance.

One thing to be said in Le Pen’s favour is that she’s done her bit to put Lurgan on the map.