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Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams in appeal for All-Ireland economics

All-ireland economic harmonisation will cut waste, the Northern Ireland Assembly heard yesterday.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams claimed Northern Ireland "on its own always was a basket case after years of direct rule from London". He said administrations north and south needed to reduce duplication and unnecessary spending on replica bodies.

The West Belfast MLA addressed a debate on the all-island economy at Stormont yesterday afternoon, in which unionists accused him of "fantasy economics" and said most of Northern Ireland's trade was with Great Britain.

Mr Adams said: "The economy here never worked, it was always a basket case. We are not arguing here for a united Ireland...what we are arguing here is for harmonisation, is common sense relationships.

"What we are talking about is trying to stitch together things which are of benefit to ordinary citizens. We should have more control, more sets of levers, local businesses should have available to them the same assistance as is given to foreign investors."

He said there should be a single corporation tax, barriers to workers' mobility throughout Ireland should be removed and there must not be competing development agencies north and south.

DUP East Londonderry MLA Gregory Campbell said Sinn Fein was being political and trying to advance their Irish unity agenda. He pointed to the trouble the Irish economy has been experiencing.

And Lord Wallace Browne, DUP MLA for East Belfast, said Sinn Fein was engaging in "fantasy economics".

He said: "The whole premise of Sinn Fein's proposal is a complete fantasy. The best way to boost Northern Ireland's economy is to institute policies that will make Northern Ireland more attractive to investors than the Republic and not to simply tie Northern Ireland's prospects to those of the Republic."

Alban Maginness, SDLP MLA for North Belfast, said there was an urgent need to depoliticise the debate over the economy.

"The world regards this island as an economic unit and it is just too small to have competing economies when collaboration can achieve so much more." he said.

The motion was defeated.