Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Monday, 6 December 2010

Northern Ireland Assembly

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams made his final speech to the assembly, on 6 December 2010.

Mr Adams ended his comments on the Early Years Children's Strategy motion by extending his best wishes to colleagues and thanking the speaker for the fair way business was conducted.

He concluded saying: "We don't want to be separated by an artificial border, God speed the day we will be united."

The Sinn Fein president is to step down as an MP and Stormont assembly member in order to stand for election in the Louth constituency in the Irish Republic.

The motion on the Early Years Children's Strategy was proposed by education committee chairperson, Mervyn Storey. It seeks a cross-departmental and holistic action plan for children from pre-birth to age six.

Mr Storey said he had waited six years for the department of education to produce this strategy but claimed it failed to look at key issues or key ways to move forward.

The UUP's Roy Beggs and education committee deputy chairperson David Hilditch both expressed concerns with the lack of nursery school places in Northern Ireland.

Independent member, Dawn Purvis and the Alliance's Trevor Lunn said the strategy offered very little for newborns up to those aged three.

All members agreed pre-school attendance improved school attainment and could decrease levels of juvenile delinquency, racism, crime and sectarianism.

Education Minister Caítriona Ruane announced that she would extend the consultation stage until 30 January 2011.

Winding the debate, Dominic Bradley said the education minister had not responded to the nine areas of concern put forward by the education committee and that she did not adequately respond to issues posed in the debate.

The motion was passed unanimously.

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