Northern Ireland's chronic problem with illegal fuel selling has resulted in half of the province's forecourts closing down in the last decade, the Daily Mirror Ulster has reported.

<p>Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson has blamed paramilitary bootleggers and fuel launderers for the decline, the newspaper states.<br /><br />According to the report, legitimate independent fuel retailers cannot compete with the illegal fuel sales, which have forced many out of business. Over the course of just 10 years, the number of petrol forecourts in Northern Ireland had shrunk from around 1,000 to just 550.<br /><br />Mr Donaldson has called on the Westminster government to tackle the problem, not least because the Treasury is losing millions of pounds in tax revenues.<br /><br />However, according to the Mirror&#0039;s report, Noel Smyth, regional manager of the Petrol Retailers&#0039; Association, believes that the key factor in the reduction of forecourts is the growing dominance over the fuel retailing sector of the supermarkets.</p>