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Finance Minister blasts Sinn Fein's 'economic lunacy'

By Noel McAdam

Published 30/04/2015

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton
Finance Minister Simon Hamilton
Sinn Fein's South Down candidate Chris Hazzard

The DUP has accused Sinn Fein of "economic lunacy" and warned republican plans would bring chaos to public finances.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton insisted his main partner party in the power-sharing Stormont administration "hasn't a clue when it comes to economic or fiscal matters".

His attack came after Sinn Fein's South Down candidate Chris Hazzard outlined a number of the party's policies, including a state-owned bank in Northern Ireland and a raft of measures to help low-income families.

But Mr Hamilton quipped they amounted to a "Hazzard warning" in which Sinn Fein's economic illiteracy "has been well and truly exposed".

He said Mr Hazzard's performance on the BBC Nolan Radio Ulster programme "owed as much to Groucho Marx as Karl Marx".

"Unfundable harebrained idea after harebrained idea flowed from Mr Hazzard's mouth as he suggested that government should clear people's credit card debts, car loans and mortgages and that a state-owned bank be established offering lower rates to anyone Sinn Fein approves of."

The Finance Minister, who is currently doubling up as health chief for the departed Jim Wells, went on: "Buy a new car. Paint the house. Go on holiday. Pay for them on your credit card. Don't worry about your mounting debts. Sinn Fein will get the government to pick up the tab. How much would this mad idea cost the taxpayer?

"I suspect Sinn Fein, who are more than happy to take, take, take from HM Treasury, couldn't care less how much it would cost hardworking people to pay for their potty ideas. Not for the first time, the message from Sinn Fein is spend, spend, spend."

And bluntly referring to the Provisional IRA's Northern Bank robbery in December, 2004, he added: "As for establishing a state-owned bank, maybe Sinn Fein with their unique experience of banks could put their - or rather other's - money where their mouth is and place, say, £26m into the reserves of this new bank to get things started."

Mr Hamilton also said Sinn Fein's plans to ask the next UK government for £1.5bn more for Northern Ireland "appeared not to recognise that it would mean public spending across the UK having to increase by £54bn".

But writing in the Belfast Telegraph today, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness confirmed SF will seek an immediate renegotiation with the new Government after the election to reinstate £1.5bn to Northern Ireland's block grant.

"This austerity agenda is the single greatest threat to the people of the north and its political institutions. The absence of fiscal powers have made the Executive's task even more difficult. Taxes raised here should stay here and the Executive should decide how they are spent.

"In the immediate aftermath of the election, Sinn Fein will seek an immediate negotiation with the incoming British Government to secure a workable budget, including the reinstatement of £1.5bn to the block grant, to support job creation and the delivery of strong public services.

He said Sinn Fein would also prioritise job creation - including through the provision of quality affordable childcare - both attracting inward investment and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, working to create a Border Economic Development Zone, and ending zero-hour contracts.

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