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Policing stories February 20, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Funny moment during the week. I was talking to someone about my age, early fifties, not political, and they were genuinely shocked by the McCabe allegations – and understandably so, but in that ‘knew things weren’t all rosy but can’t believe this could happen – those fellers are out of control with their approach to the McCabes and who else might suffer the same?’.

As it happened there was a long time SF member with us and both of us pointed out how in the 1980s in our direct experience – ahem – heavy handed policing wasn’t unknown directed at either WP or SF members or others in the broader Republican area, knocks on the doors of homes, workplaces, friends, etc.

Granted the Tusla issue is a novel and deeply unpleasant twist, but nothing here is absolutely unprecedented.

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1. Florrie O'Donoghue - February 20, 2017

I find that very, very strange. How anybody reading an Irish newspaper (Indo, Times, Press) in 1976/77 could have ignored the revelations of the “heavy gang” is beyond me.

Whether they want to believe the likes of Nicky Kelly and co. somehow caused their own bruises is another matter entirely, but for this to be a surprise?

And what you say, WBS, is spot on:

“As it happened there was a long time SF member with us and both of us pointed out how in the 1980s in our direct experience – ahem – heavy handed policing wasn’t unknown directed at either WP or SF members or others in the broader Republican area, knocks on the doors of homes, workplaces, friends, etc.”

Is mise srl.,

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WorldbyStorm - February 20, 2017

I think that outside the politically active there’s a bit of a memory hole in relation to the 70s and the heavy gang. There shouldn’t be, but there seems to be.

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CMK - February 20, 2017

I think the policing of the water meter protests from late 2014 to about mid-2015 were deliberately political in intent and had a heavy element to them. There must have been well over 200 hundred arrested and we are now nearing the high point with the Jobstown trials in April.

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6to5against - February 21, 2017

somebody now in their early fifties was hardly reading much in the papers in the mid 70s. if they don’t come from a politicised background, it would be very easy to be unaware of the heavy gang era.

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2. ivorthorne - February 20, 2017

The thing is, what happened is anything other than shocking. To NOT have these kind of thing happen requires having a system that is designed to prevent them from happening where there are systems of oversight.

Any organisation, regardless of whether it is FG, the RCC, the BBC or the Gardai, will act in its own interests and too often, it will sweep things under the rug rather than embarrass itself or its leadership. If you believe that your organisation is good for society and it provides a necessary service, it is very easy to rationalise covering up wrong-doing by its members. Likewise, having done that, it is very easy to rationalise taking action against whistleblowers as serving the greater good. It is also very easy to conflate an organisations leadership and their reputations with the organisation itself – especially when you’re at the top.

We know all of this. We’ve known this for a very long time. So when political representatives come out and say that they’re shocked, it is not good enough. They knew that the proper oversight procedures were not in place. It was only ever a matter of time before this came out. I’m reminded of that former head of (I think) Swim Ireland who when asked by a peer about allegations against a serial abuser who was a swimming coach was reported as sighing and saying he’d hoped that the matter would not break on his watch.

Gardai are in a position of extraordinary power in comparison to teachers, priests, TV presenters or swimming coaches. Even the lowest ranked Garda has the ability to ruin somebody’s life without ever leaving the station. The fact that we’ve given them less oversight than any number of other civil servants and professionals was idiotic.

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WorldbyStorm - February 20, 2017

That’s a crucial aspect of this, just how powerful individuals in some organisations can be. I wonder if also some of the memory hole stuff is not wishing to face up to the implications of what you describe above.

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3. CL - February 20, 2017

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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ivorthorne - February 20, 2017

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4. shea - February 20, 2017

difference with mccabe is he was one of there own, doing his job and kept excellent notes.

If he didn’t do the last bit he wouldn’t be believed, there is kind of a knee jerk reaction among alot of people who take a ‘they wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t deserve it’ line on stories of garda abuses. The way this story has built up they can’t do that now and it was tried at the start, even against one of there own.

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WorldbyStorm - February 20, 2017

That’s a great point too shea.

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5. Gerryboy - February 21, 2017
6. Alibaba - February 21, 2017

What makes recent police events somewhat ‘unprecedented’ is the fact they were, as they say, caught rapid. I am thinking of Commissioner Callinan calling the whistleblowers “quite disgusting” in public, of the confidential recipient verbally threatening McCabe (something McCabe had secretly taped), of a garda Press Officer telling us he was officially phoned and told to smear McCabe (he was sacked for going public and has since been restored to his post) and of Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Joan Collins raising these matters in the Dáil (not without difficulty, but with much perseverance).

As put by Gene Kerrigan, ‘It involves not just abuse of the penalty points system but a murder, a serious assault and the attempted abduction of a child – along with a string of questionable responses to people in need of protection.

The cover-up of this bullying includes persistent abuse of the whistleblowers and what might have been an abortive attempt to give false evidence against Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission. We have to wonder, if they tolerate this being done to a garda sergeant, what would they tolerate being done in private to a witness or a suspect?’

What’s more, ‘And the political parties have been caught jockeying to claim credit for a public service they not only didn’t perform but which they wilfully neglected.’

Now we have such a hard-won tribunal and an external police inquiry. So what. It’s still a right rotten mess.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/gene-kerrigan/those-sleeping-dogs-they-just-might-bite-35462964.html

As put by Michael Clifford … questions to answer over Maurice McCabe allegation:

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/questions-to-answer-over-maurice-mccabe-allegation-443413.html

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Alibaba - February 21, 2017

Please note that to read these articles you may need to register with the newspapers, if you haven’t done so already. This service is free of charge.

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7. EWI - February 21, 2017

As it happened there was a long time SF member with us and both of us pointed out how in the 1980s in our direct experience – ahem – heavy handed policing wasn’t unknown directed at either WP or SF members or others in the broader Republican area, knocks on the doors of homes, workplaces, friends, etc.

Like many other political police activities, this is something that the Guards inherited directly by example from the RIC and DMP.

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8. Joe - February 21, 2017

Ah sweet Jesus, I won’t waste my breath. I’m definitely gone away now from CLR for a long spell now – for the sake of my blood pressure.

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WorldbyStorm - February 21, 2017

Why? What on this thread is so blood pressure inducing, I’d have thought purely from a civil liberties standpoint theres little or nothing contentious about it.

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Liberius - February 21, 2017

I suspect Joe thinks that it might be a slight bit gratuitous to link attempts to undermine the credibility of a whistle blower with the policing of people who choose to associate with organizations with paramilitary wings who at the time were engaged in a variety of activities that lead to deaths.

I suspect also that merely writing that is going to be incendiary to some on here, though that’s how it goes.

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Ivorthorne - February 21, 2017

So it’s okay to violate people’s rights if they’re bad guys but not if they’re nice? You cannot have a police force who we allow to violate laws and procedures when it’s popular.

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Liberius - February 21, 2017

I’m not arguing anything other than that context makes the linking of the two a bit of a stretch. One is an example of breaking rules and procedures out of a sense of protecting public safety (whatever about the rights and wrongs of it), and the other is an example of covering your own arses through devious means. The methods may be the same, but the context and motivations are different, making them poor comparisons, albeit one with political benefits for people associated with political and paramilitary groups that came under pressure.

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Ed - February 21, 2017

The link is not being made by WBS, it’s always been made by law’n’order bozos of the Paul Williams/Jim Cusack variety. Every kind of Garda abuse and brutality that comes to light is somehow linked to a struggle against ‘subversion’. Take Rossport, for example: vicious, brutal, sinister tactics from the Guards, repeatedly assaulting people in broad daylight, working hand-in-glove with private security men who were harassing them every day, tapping people’s phones, etc. What did it take for most of the Irish media to give them a free pass? Some vague mutterings about ‘Provo tactics’, and a disgraceful ‘documentary’ made by Eoghan Harris’s TV company (with Paul Williams as presenter) claiming that the whole campaign was a front for dissident republicans.

When McCabe’s allegations were first publicized by Daly, Wallace and Flanagan, the same Paul Williams was sent out to bat for the Guards, giving a speech at the FF ard-fheis denouncing the TDs as a menace to democracy, and later smearing McCabe as a paedophile. As it happens, neither Daly, Wallace nor Flanagan had any background in the republican movement, but that didn’t stop them being branded as ‘subversives’, bad elements, etc. For a very long time, Irish liberals have been able to shrug off evidence of police corruption and brutality by telling themselves that the people on the receiving end were mixed up in the wrong kind of politics and only had themselves to blame.

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Michael Carley - February 21, 2017

One is an example of breaking rules and procedures out of a sense of protecting public safety (whatever about the rights and wrongs of it), and the other is an example of covering your own arses through devious means. The methods may be the same, but the context and motivations are different, making them poor comparisons, albeit one with political benefits for people associated with political and paramilitary groups that came under pressure.

Well, sort of. It’s a bit rich of people who supported the Kingsmill massacre, or the Birmingham and Guildford bombings, to complain about having the cops at their door at an inconvenient hour, but that’s not the point. We are all entitled to expect that the police, and the other forces of the state, will behave correctly, no matter who they are dealing with.

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Ed - February 21, 2017

Funny that you would mention the Birmingham bombings when we’re talking about people being denied their civil liberties because of alleged links to the IRA … for what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone supported Kingsmill or Birmingham, not in public anyway. The local unit of the IRA tried to shrug off responsibility for Kingsmill by claiming it in the name of a non-existent group (‘Catholic Reaction Force’, I think); and the Provos denied responsibility for the Birmingham bombings for many years afterwards, although nobody believed them.

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Michael Carley - February 21, 2017

Why `funny’? Are you really saying there’s nothing inconsistent about supporting the organization which carried out those crimes, and then demanding respect for civil liberties?

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WorldbyStorm - February 21, 2017

To me good policing is indivisible – one doesn’t tolerate bad policing practices simply because we don’t have an affinity with one group or another – surely that’s the lessons of the 70s and after or indeed other police services and our experience in this state. And I think it is legitimate to point to what was described in the OP as problematic. Quite apart from the farcical harassment of people both SF and WP were legally organised.

There are questions, I had them myself at the time, in relation to support for human rights but at the same time I disagree with the idea that because someone is a hypocrite that invalidates the legitimacy of an issue they may or may not support.

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Michael Carley - February 21, 2017

@WBS I quite agree that the position is correct, and indeed it’s what I said: “We are all entitled to expect that the police, and the other forces of the state, will behave correctly, no matter who they are dealing with.” And you’re quite right that if you concede the police have the right to harass X (republicans, football fans, travellers, whoever) you’ll soon find that people you have an affinity with are getting the same treatment.

I just find it a bit much to hear people who would defend far worse practices complaining about the police. Does anyone really think you can resort to violence without a state response?

It reminds me of the people who would denounce the Provos but can always find an excuse for state murders.

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RosencrantzisDead - February 21, 2017

I tend to find that people care about ‘due process’ and ‘civil liberties’ for their preferred groups; fascism is fine as long as it is directed against ‘themmuns over there’.

For example, the people who advocated for the ‘freeze peach’ of white supremacists and anti-semites were the same people who had grave concerns for democracy and ‘our-way-of-life’ when the Daily Mail or Trump attacked some old, white judges.

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WorldbyStorm - February 21, 2017

Unless one is Spiked in which case its almost like a mania for free speech.

On a slight tangent and extending our discussion MC it us very notable to me how the Republican Movement(s) were always very cautious in terms of engaging directly against the ROI state and its predecessor iterations as against the British statd and NI state, indeed its interesting how even on thus thread there’s not been any differentiation between those states or events in them. And although there was rhetoric in functional terms although the RM(s) were on occasion hostile to this state armed conflict directed against it was exceedingly rare (and forbidden iirc in the PIRA operating procedures though it did happen).

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Michael Carley - February 21, 2017

@WBS indeed, the RM(s) did make a point of not confronting the Dublin state directly though one thing English commentators never seemed to get was that the IRA(s) were a threat to the Republic of Ireland in way that they were not to the UK: if Britain pulled out of Northern Ireland tomorrow, it would still be the UK; if Sinn Fein, at least in its older form, had taken power in Dublin, the resulting state would not have been the same thing.

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WorldbyStorm - February 21, 2017

Yes very true and the perception of danger isn’t unimportant though I’ve always felt the danger to the ROI from PSF was overstated. But it doesn’t have to be ‘real’ to drive responses and over responses.

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Liberius - February 21, 2017

We are all entitled to expect that the police, and the other forces of the state, will behave correctly, no matter who they are dealing with.

I’m not disputing that, just the eliding of the experiences of organisations with paramilitary wings with whistle blowers.

And I think it is legitimate to point to what was described in the OP as problematic. Quite apart from the farcical harassment of people both SF and WP were legally organised.

partially-legal, as their paramilitary wings weren’t ever legal entities.

I just find it a bit much to hear people who would defend far worse practices complaining about the police. Does anyone really think you can resort to violence without a state response?

That actually it, notion that the state’s abuses of power are indefensible (As they are) juxtaposed against a type of person who is equivocal about whether murders and bombing were justified; I don’t mind people being hypocritical, but I don’t think they deserve to be protected from being pilloried for it.

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ivorthorne - February 21, 2017

Liberius, that takes a little bit of imagination.

Who on earth was “eliding of the experiences of organisations with paramilitary wings with whistle blowers”. What are being drawn together are the actions of the Gardai in various situations across the decades. We all know about the heavy gang, the actions in Donegal etc. There’s a simple point here and that is that we, and the powers that be, should have seen this coming.

As for your comment that “partially-legal, as their paramilitary wings weren’t ever legal” is a distortion of history. Those organisations were not “partially-legal”. They were fully legal. You can argue that the legal and illegal organisations were inextricably linked but not that they were one and the same.

Father Fitzpatrick can believe that Nazis were/are great. He can like Hitler on facebook. He can look on at an white nationalist rally in Vermont where a black man gets the shit kicked out of him and guess what? Father Fitzpatrick may be a scumbag but he has the same legal rights as you or I and the Gardai don’t get to frame him, call him a paedophile, kick in his door at 3 in the morning or treat him like anything other than a law-abiding citizen so long as he’s doing nothing illegal.

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Ed - February 21, 2017

Michael, it’s funny (to me anyway) because I had just been pointing out the slippage in a lot of these arguments from ‘you have to expect a bit of a hard time if you’re associated with the IRA’ to ‘you have to expect a bit of a hard time if you’re accused of being associated with the IRA’, since an awful lot of people were accused of being associated without much evidence to back that up.

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Michael Carley - February 21, 2017

@Ed quite true, and you can see that slippage in lots of places: it’s worth looking at the measures introduced years ago to combat football hooliganism, which amounted to arbitrary detention without trial. Indeed, one objection to police abuses is that if you tell some people they lie outside the law, they’ll act accordingly.

On the other hand, there are presumably quite a few people who thought that the Guildford Four didn’t bomb those pubs, but that they should have.

In terms of crimes to be cleaned up, there are far more on the state side than on the non-state, and state crimes are in some sense worse, but that doesn’t excuse the non-state crimes.

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Liberius - February 21, 2017

Who on earth was “eliding of the experiences of organisations with paramilitary wings with whistle blowers”. What are being drawn together are the actions of the Gardai in various situations across the decades.

I think it’s a fair interpretation of the second paragraph of WbS’ OP, granted you could take the view that it is only an element of heavy policing taken from the political perspective of WbS and the individual he was talking to rather than a direct linking, but I’d still suggest that it is fair to criticise the linking of the two, given the differences of motivation.

As for your comment that “partially-legal, as their paramilitary wings weren’t ever legal” is a distortion of history. Those organisations were not “partially-legal”. They were fully legal. You can argue that the legal and illegal organisations were inextricably linked but not that they were one and the same.

You can take that perspective, others, including myself, wouldn’t.

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WorldbyStorm - February 21, 2017

I’m not disputing that, just the eliding of the experiences of organisations with paramilitary wings with whistle blowers.

Firstly that wasn’t the point of the exercise. The point was to say that policing in this state had long taken a turn to the heavy handed, that some people seemed surprised by it and I just offered one small example of same that was well within living memory. I wasn’t saying that was the only, the most important or even the most pertinent example. But it was an example. One doesn’t even have to look at the simple example I gave but examine other interactions. And indeed both CMK and Ed offered other examples.

Nor was it some sort of guilt or smear by association.

But there is a more fundamental point. If those organisations even with paramilitary wings were legal it seems to me to unreasonable for their members to be harassed in specifically non-political or non-illegal contexts. For examples, their workplaces, educational establishments, etc. If in the course of actual enquiries about actual crimes there was a Garda involvement that’s a different thing entirely – and who would complain? I wouldn’t.

partially-legal, as their paramilitary wings weren’t ever legal entities.
If the parties themselves were legal and the individuals were members of the parties then unless there was evidence to the contrary, not allegation, evidence, and they were charged with membership of a proscribed organisation etc then the point about ‘partially-legal’ is irrelevant. And indeed no one was charged with membership of Sinn Féin or the WP because it wasn’t a crime.

That actually it, notion that the state’s abuses of power are indefensible (As they are) juxtaposed against a type of person who is equivocal about whether murders and bombing were justified; I don’t mind people being hypocritical, but I don’t think they deserve to be protected from being pilloried for it.

I don’t quite grasp what you’re saying. Are you saying that harassment was justified, that that equalled pilloried? Or are you saying that people should be pilloried verbally for supporting armed struggle in the 1980s and simultaneously berating state abuses? I understand where you’re coming from but I think that – and let’s be clear I didn’t support armed struggle in the 1980s and said so publicly in various fora, that is perhaps to not quite understand the sense of this being a conflict. That perception may have been incorrect, but if one believed that to be the case then it actually makes it much easier to try to point up the human rights abuses of ones opponents while somewhat or a lot downplaying ones own, add in disparities in strength of combatants (perceived strengths), a sense of a beleaguered community, etc, etc and it is easy to see how one can view the conflict in certain ways that would tend to diminish ones sense that ones own side was problematic. I’m not saying that is my view, I’m trying to explain how it would arise. For example, justification of murder isn’t that difficult in a combat situation. Atrocities can be regarded as mistakes or errors or whatever. And so on.

I also wonder at the utility of all this in a way – the pillorying. Even if one proved every SF member (or WP person at the time, the current entity is almost a different party entirely) was a hypocrite, and there are so many nuances to this, not least ignoring the fairly stark difference just between those two parties and their approaches, how does that assist matters? What truth does it tell us? Does it have any practical value in the contemporary period? And it seems to drift away from your original starting point in this discussion.

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Liberius - February 22, 2017

I wasn’t saying that was the only, the most important or even the most pertinent example. But it was an example. One doesn’t even have to look at the simple example I gave but examine other interactions.

I can understand using it as an example, but as you say there are more pertinent examples out there. they might have served as better and less divisive options, albeit I recognise that in this case they might be more remote for you and the person you were talking with given the political heritage outlined in that paragraph of your OP.

If those organisations even with paramilitary wings were legal it seems to me to unreasonable for their members to be harassed in specifically non-political or non-illegal contexts. For examples, their workplaces, educational establishments, etc.

I’m not suggesting that it was right to harass these people, just that there is a difference between that in its own context and the McCabe issue.

If the parties themselves were legal and the individuals were members of the parties then unless there was evidence to the contrary, not allegation, evidence, and they were charged with membership of a proscribed organisation etc then the point about ‘partially-legal’ is irrelevant.

Granted.

Or are you saying that people should be pilloried verbally for supporting armed struggle in the 1980s and simultaneously berating state abuses?

Should goes a bit far, but I don’t think they can complain too much when the oddity of being in favour of murder and bombing is contrasted with police harassment, which for all of it being wrong is not on a par with the hundreds of deaths these people (primarily SF members) supported.

For example, justification of murder isn’t that difficult in a combat situation. Atrocities can be regarded as mistakes or errors or whatever. And so on.

That is true, however I don’t think it’s too much to expect that somebody in retrospect should have enough self-awareness to recognise that those justifications aren’t legitimate and never were, especially given the subsequent move towards the peace process.

how does that assist matters? What truth does it tell us? Does it have any practical value in the contemporary period? And it seems to drift away from your original starting point in this discussion.

It doesn’t, but I’m not convinced that shoehorning in the issue has value to today compared to the past beyond catharsis for members affected; in that way I don’t think it strays too far from the starting point.

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WorldbyStorm - February 22, 2017

My only thought would be that no one here was arguing an absolute equivalence in terms of anything so I don’t think hypocrisy can be levelled against anyone here. These days I think, certainly from talking to people from various backgrounds that there is a greater acknowledgement of contradiction. Which is a good thing I tend to think.

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EWI - February 22, 2017

I’m not suggesting that it was right to harass these people, just that there is a difference between that in its own context and the McCabe issue.

But talk of ‘context’ really IS arguing that it was right to justify those people, albeit in a weaselly fashion.

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EWI - February 22, 2017

really was justified to target those people

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