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An invasion of the North in 1969? January 18, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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What do people make of this a report, from the Irish News, that suggests:

A CO Tyrone man has claimed the Irish army came within minutes of invading the north to highlight the plight of nationalists faced with a sectarian onslaught in the late 1960s.

He ‘revealed how he was in a house in Dublin with former Irish government minister Neil Blaney when the daring operation was dramatically called off at the last minute.’

But…

A secret Irish army document, Interim Report of Planning Board on Northern Ireland Operations, also known as ‘Exercise Armageddon’ and drawn up in 1969, later confirmed plans by the government to cross the border but warned such as move undertaken against the north would be “militarily unsound”.

Here’s a post on this topic from the past. 

Comments»

1. NFB - January 18, 2022

Sorry, I’ll start again. There’s a paywall there, so I can’t say too much, but sounds pretty fanciful. Whatever about preparations/contingencies, it sounds absurd that the Army was “minutes” from crossing the border.

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WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2022

Yeah fanciful is the right term.

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2. roddy - January 18, 2022

I remember Lynch’s broadcast in 69.We had an RTE ariel mounted on a tree which my father had cut down in the bog,stripped of it’s branches and sunk into a hole in the back yard.The reception varied in quality but on that particular evening the picture was first class and we all honestly believed that the “free state” was coming over the hill to save us.I was 10 years old and was overawed by the excitement of the whole thing while my father and my uncles were overcome with emotion that the orange state was going to get its comeuppance.How wrong we all were!

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benmadigan - January 18, 2022

in Belfast there was a sense of hope and relief that help was coming , which didn’t happen of course.

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3. sonofstan - January 18, 2022

My dad was in the army and at the border at the time. His estimate was that they were 24 hours off an invasion when it was called off. So a lot of minutes.

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NFB - January 18, 2022

If you don’t mind me asking, how did he feel about the possibility? The “Exercise” document is so resoundingly “This is a bad idea” in its tone, it makes one wonder how divorced from reality certain people in Dublin were at the time.

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sonofstan - January 18, 2022

Not really sure to be honest: he wasn’t the easiest man to discuss things with, at least not when I was an argumentative teenager, and he was gone before I actually got really interested.
I do remember being in L’Kenny winter of 69/70, where we’d lived up until the end of ’67 and being astonished at how the barracks there (now a hotel I think) had changed. What had been a sleepy backwater, where my old man’s big project was a pitch and putt course, now had a battalion of infantry, lots of big guns and a helicopter pad.

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EWI - January 18, 2022

If you don’t mind me asking, how did he feel about the possibility? The “Exercise” document is so resoundingly “This is a bad idea” in its tone, it makes one wonder how divorced from reality certain people in Dublin were at the time.

Things can be near-certain to and actually end in military defeat yet be politically a victory (the British retreat to Dunkirk and evacuation, the Easter rising, the burning of the Customs House, the Tet Offensive). An Irish Army intervention in Derry to protect the nationalist community, even if it held just a week, would have blown ‘internal security matter within the UK’ out of the water (on both sides of the Border) and forced a serious British engagement before a revived IRA took matters into their own hands.

Which close call is possibly why there was such a conservative backlash in the South for the next twenty years.

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4. banjoagbeanjoe - January 18, 2022

An “invasion” of the north…
Would it have been a good idea in 1969? Would it have been a good idea in 1921/22?
Would it have been successful? Indeed how would “success” be measured?

There was a photo of a group of Irish Army Rangers in full battle gear moving down a country on my Facebook feed a while back. In the conversation someone mused on whether the day might someday come that they’d be moving like that down the roads around Ballymena. My take was that if they ever do or did, we’d have failed.

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Francis Donohoe - January 18, 2022

There is something for a really interesting part of the united Ireland talk, imagine if somehow (amazingly, and of course totally something that can not be foreseen by the reasonably minded person) the Loyalist community did harbour enough discontent to foster a a group which did embark on a low intensity conflict what level of response could the the new State manage to conduct? It’s like some of the talk re the Irish Army going over the border in ’69, people do realise that the vastly most likely outcome is that it would have been repelled within days at great cost to everyone, I would imagine long before it got into the greater Belfast area, or can someone propose to me the alternative history that would have seen this force making any ‘beneficial’ impact in the conflict. Also, any consideration of what chance a ‘new’ Irish state would have policing the Loyalist community, if, as I say however far fetched it is, it harboured an insurrection – are these not the realities that need discussed/tackled long before any talks of new flags or whatever else.

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WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2022

I can’t imagine anyone seriously thinks it would have been of any beneficial impact – short of a civil war situation erupting where the British had washed their hands of things, and I don’t think that would have been likely because I can’t quite see why Britain would wash its hands in that way (and only beneficial as an intervention in terms of getting people out because it’s implausible it could have held any territory in the North). But that said all this is covered in the link in the original post where the actual documents drawn up by the Defence Forces are quoted and make clear “At paragraph 4, a statement is made that “The Defence Forces have no capability of embarking on unilateral military operation of any kind . . . therefore any operations undertaken against Northern Ireland would be militarily unsound”.”

In other words there was no real prospect at all of military intervention.

Just re a Loyalist group waging a terrorist campaign in a new state. That’s obviously a concern, but I think it almost impossible to conceive of a situation where that would be able to come about and that for basic reasons. No agreement on a UI would be implemented that didn’t ensure that such a threat was simply not going to materialise because the structure of the agreement would be such that both the democratic legitimation of votes as well as negotiations and crucially the sort of structures established subsequently would be of a nature to predicate against that. Or to put it another way, I can’t see a UI flying without structures so robust that they could be flexible enough to accommodate loyalism and the expression of loyalism which almost certainly would necessitate a range of east/west political links and representation.

There is though a big problem for any such campaign, what would be the goal if it was clear that the UK would accept a referendum where a UI was passed. Repartition and an independent rump NI? Would unionism really stand over that or even want it if the alternative was a much more extensive agreement perhaps retaining much of the status quo of NI in terms of structures, links to the UK?

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EWI - January 18, 2022

the Loyalist community did harbour enough discontent to foster a a group which did embark on a low intensity conflict what level of response could the the new State manage to conduct?

Loyalism would get nowhere without British state support and direction. They are, for supposed paramilitaries, laughably amateur. As well imagination an ‘insurrection’ by one of the more media-notorious criminal families here.

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terrymdunne - January 18, 2022

50 years ago, or at any stage during the Troubles, it wouldn’t have been the loyalist paramilitaries that would have been the issue.

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EWI - January 18, 2022

50 years ago, or at any stage during the Troubles, it wouldn’t have been the loyalist paramilitaries that would have been the issue.

Then I don’t know who you’re referring to. The supposed ‘Ulster’ spirit of resistance was remarkably docile in the three counties that remained in the new Free State.

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terrymdunne - January 18, 2022

Royal Ulster Constabulary, to take 1980 as random sample year, that is 11,687 personnel including reserve; Ulster Defence Regiment is 7,259. https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/ni/security.htm#01
You can add in serving and former members of the Royal Irish Rangers &, at that stage, ex- B-Specials.

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EWI - January 18, 2022

Royal Ulster Constabulary, to take 1980 as random sample year, that is 11,687 personnel including reserve; Ulster Defence Regiment is 7,259. https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/ni/security.htm#01
You can add in serving and former members of the Royal Irish Rangers &, at that stage, ex- B-Specials.

Men with comfortable jobs – and those employed by the North’s security services fall squarely in this category – are rather less inclined to cause trouble than you might think. If someone like Drew Harris can comfortably put himself into an ROI uniform, then so can a lot of his compatriots (and the rest offered subsidised resettlement to the UK). This is, after all, pretty much how things were run in 1922.

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WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2022

There’s nothing intrinsic to Loyalists that makes them intellectually inferior than any other working class person in the island. If Republicans could jury rig a successful (in the sense of being sustained) insurgency so could they in theory. I’d suggest the reasons for Loyalism being more rather than less inept was structural, that the state was captured by Unionism, it already had paramilitary forces and proxies at a much higher level. Awful as it is to say it Loyalism could be more amateur and attracted more slapdash people (though also some who were anything but) because there was little functional need for it to be anyhthing much more. The space to Impose repression was more than filled by the BA, UDR and RUC who were more than efficient in that role. But given an impetus in other circumstances I don’t see why they couldn’t fulfil those functions particularly if they were supplemented or more likely supplanted by those with more experience. But that’s the problem right there. What would the goal of such activity were a legitimate referendum run with the oversight of a UK govt and won for unity be if it was clear the UK would abide by its outcome? What would Loyalism be for in that circumstance? I guess some might be diehards to the end and stymying even the inevitable would be it’s own reward. But there’s many ways to avoid that outcome.

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EWI - January 18, 2022

What would Loyalism be for in that circumstance? I guess some might be diehards to the end and stymying even the inevitable would be it’s own reward. But there’s many ways to avoid that outcome.

A generous resettlement package in the UK by a motivated HMG (all those secrets people have to tell) would easily sort the problem out.

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

Genuinely? That’s a desperately awful ‘solution’. People who live on this island should never be faced with that. The equivalent stuff was heard from Unionists about Nationalists and Republicans, that they should just go South.

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EWI - January 19, 2022

Genuinely? That’s a desperately awful ‘solution’. People who live on this island should never be faced with that. The equivalent stuff was heard from Unionists about Nationalists and Republicans, that they should just go South.

But WbS, that’s the eternal solution offered by retreating powers to locals who’ve been employed to do the dirty work (and before we forget who the UDR and RUC were, and what they did). It happened in the South in 1922, happened in Vietnam and Algeria and a thousand other places, even just a few months ago in Afghanistan.

They’d never get local collaborators again if that wasn’t just standard policy, and one which suits all sides.

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5. roddy - January 18, 2022

First of all your leader Goulding called for an invasion and failing that “give us the stuff and we’ll do the job” so we’ll take no revisionism from that particular quarter.For what it’s worth even without the Freestate army the Orange state would have been destroyed in 69 had the Brits not been deployed.The RUC and the Klansmen of the B specials were defeated by the people of the Bogside and they would have been stretched trying to cow the people of the other big Nationalist areas. They would have lost a majority of the landmass of the Northern state and never regained it had they not had tens of thousands of British soldiers at their back and call.

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WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2022

But isn’t it more plausible that there would have been a stalemate or worse? The RUC had a membership of 3,500 in 1969, the UDR having replaced the B-Specials/USC went for a nominal strength of up to 6k. How would Nationalists extended their reach outside Nationalist areas? And would Nationalism acted en masse? I guess if the British withdrew, something unlikely in the extreme there might have been a rolling civil war situation – particularly in Belfast and with some sort of de facto repartition with population movements (and there were those anyhow, a good friend of mine, his family came south in 1970 due to the violence, but tellingly they hated the Provos as much as they hated the Loyalists who’d burned them out).

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roddy - January 18, 2022

Nationalists wouldnt have been interested in “extending their reach outside Nationalist areas” but could have easily repeated the Bogside experience in vast swathes of the North,founding large no go areas that the orange militias ie RUC ,Specials and their UDR offspring could have been kept out of indefinitely.If anyone thinks that these militias were some kind of effective military force they did’nt know their make up particularly well.The UDR were mockingly and correctly labelled “Dads army” – a collection of misfits and cowards whilst many in the RUC at the time had joined in peace time and were totally unprepared for what would be thrown at them by the “risen people” of the Bogside.

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 18, 2022

But isn’t the north quite messy in terms of ‘nationalist areas’ and ‘unionist areas’? Sure there are some towns and villages and swathes of territory that are overwhelmingly one or the other. But there’s also, as far as I know, plenty of places where it’s a mixum gatherum, where there’s substantial minorities of one or other. The Irish army going in or the scenario where the British army wasn’t deployed the way it was (deep breath) and the nationalists established their ‘Free Derry’ areas across the north – wouldn’t that have been a recipe for sectarian slaughters of vulnerable minority communities (nationalist and unionist) across the north? And de facto messy repartition… and where from there?

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roddy - January 18, 2022

I don’t recall “sectarian slaughters” in Free Derry or the parts of Belfast that were “free” for a much shorter time.

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

roddy, this is all moonshine. You can’t take out the British Army from the 1970 equation. That history happened the way it did. And with no disrespect to those who were involved the reality is that Unionism was the state. Sure, the BA backed them up, but Christ, if it was all this easy the North would have been overrun in 1921 but it wasn’t because the conditions were such that Britain underwrote the dispensation so we’re really discussing nothing that has any bearing on the real world.

By all means do down the ability of Unoinists to defend that state but assuming the British all stayed home the best one could expectd would be a repartition. Quite apart from everything else I doubt any ROI government would fight to the last soldier to push the Unionists into the sea. And that’s what it would take. All this is desperately depressing stuff to be honest.

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6. roddy - January 18, 2022

The Goulding reference above is for Francis Donohoe ,not WBS by the way.

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WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2022

I guess that! 🙂

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 18, 2022

Ah feck. I thought it was for me.

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7. Blade Sprinter - January 18, 2022

From the conversations of the aunts & uncles in the late 70s/80s it was an accepted fact that the army had been moved to the border in preparation for invading to defend besieged Nationalist communities. Everyone involved all the way up was in support, except for Jack Lynch who called it off. It was an accepted fact in the unending conversations about the Troubles that were an inevitable component of the Sunday extended family dinners.

The father’s school friend was an NCO (a Jadotville Jack). An uncle was a junior civil servant. Both sources said it was true.

The assumption was the UN would swiftly step in as peacekeepers. As everyone knew the Irish army was in no shape to stand up to the British army.

Interestingly as the cousins got old enough to join in and pointed out that attacking a NATO country was a whole different ballgame, that the RAF could flatten any city (likely Dublin) within the hour, these objections were somewhat shouted down and there was no appetite to entertain them. The preferred narrative was Jack Lynch was a traitor and a coward. Which I think gives an insight into the emotional state of the country in 1969. Not really the most rational.

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WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2022

I think you are absolutely right about the perception that any action to cross the border would be to internationalise the situation. The idea was never a first Newry and Derry, then Belfast scenario. But I don’t think that the Irish government as a whole wanted (well perhaps a few Ministers in the crucible of 1969-1970 but after that I’d think the general consensus was stability of the ROI as the primary goal and absolute horror at the idea of British withdrawal) wanted to intervene and most would know that if the situation had got that bad we’re talking about an open civil war between unionist and nationalist in the North.

“Interestingly as the cousins got old enough to join in and pointed out that attacking a NATO country was a whole different ballgame, that the RAF could flatten any city (likely Dublin) within the hour, these objections were somewhat shouted down and there was no appetite to entertain them. The preferred narrative was Jack Lynch was a traitor and a coward. Which I think gives an insight into the emotional state of the country in 1969. Not really the most rational.”

This is the problem. The UK was a permanent member of the UN security council. All it had to do was to veto any resolution. Was it seriously plausible that the UK would allow UN troops into a constituent part of the union? I find that completely unlikely. Just wasn’t going to happen. I don’t think the US would have forced the UK either – the relationships of the 1990s took a long time to build – short of absolute catastrophe. But this was the Nixon White House too. Not sure he placed NI very high on his list of anything.

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Blade Sprinter - January 18, 2022

I was going to make the same point about Nixon and the UNSC as you’ve done. Nixon placed far more importance on NATO, alliance with the UK and was not beholden to the Irish-American voter base. Without tacit agreement from the UK there would be no UN intervention. The downside risks to the Irish military sent over the border, civilians in their vicinity and those in Drogheda, Dublin would be significant. Given the UK military could trounce the Irish military in a few days, what would be the benefit to anyone?

From listening to the elders, it does seem that the scenes on the TV from the North, alongside the guilt of abandonment in 1922 overrode any rationality and practically everyone wanted to go in to save their fellow citizens from the abusive, apartheid state that was kicking off a civil war. There was more division over the Arms Trial than there was for invasion in ’69.

I understand where Roddy is coming from, to be abandoned again after receiving hints/word that rescue was coming over the hill. A most bitter pill to swallow, and one that only grew more bitter over the next 30 years.

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WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2022

+1 re the justifiable bitterness and anger. That sense of abandonment was very real – and I think the resultant isolation fuelled a lot subsequently. The ROI acted far too obsequiously in that respect too the British. There was much they could have done on certain levels that they clearly didn’t. And worse was the almost public aversion in the part of the state to Nationalists after.

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Blade Sprinter - January 19, 2022

Agreed.

Yet, our cards were limited and poor. The headwinds of international politics and economics were tremendous. Inflation of the 70s. Crashes of the 80s, the debt to GDP ratio crushing us.

The AIA and MacBride principles being about the only two successes.

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8. roddy - January 18, 2022

Lynch was a traitor,a coward and an out and out liar to boot.Ironically he owed his position to any treaty gunmen ,the most ruthless of whom acted as his election agent on numerous occasions.

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9. Brian Hanley - January 18, 2022

I hesitate to even offer an opinion here given the certainties that Roddy is expressing above but …
The B Specials hadn’t been deployed against the Bogsiders- the Defence Committee were calling for Irish government aid because they simply didn’t have the capacity to fight the Specials if they were sent in- they feared they’d be massacred.
Secondly the RUC in Derry did not deploy the scale of firepower that they did in Belfast- where no nationalist or republican I’ve ever spoken to who was there believes that they were ‘winning’ in August 1969 prior to the arrival of the British army.
Five nationalists were killed along with two loyalists during those days. Hundreds more nationalists were injured and the vast majority of those who fled were nationalists.
Republicans and nationalists fought heroically in Derry and Belfast, but in Derry the fighting only stopped because the British arrived and in Belfast nationalists were clearly losing and outside of a handful of border areas nationalist communities would have suffered hugely if the scale of the Belfast and Derry fighting was replicated elsewhere.

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roddy - January 18, 2022

There are pictures from the time clearly showing the Klansmen of the B specials wearing hankerchiefs over their faces in Derry to protect themselves from the gas being used by their RUC comrades.My point is both orange militias could have been stretched to breaking point by similar insurrections in other areas.And as someone who lived through the entire conflict, I can assure you there were sufficient numbers of disaffected youth to step up to the mark in 69. Had the Brits not arrived to take the steam out of things,the RUC would have never been able to contain the situation once the action spread out across multiple areas.

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Brian Hanley - January 18, 2022

The B-Specials were in Derry alright, but they weren’t deployed against the Bogsiders. Their arrival produced panic because people rightly felt that they would probably use the rifles and sub-machine guns they were armed with. Aside from I think one occasion when an RUC man fired his revolver, the police had not used firearms during the fighting. News that the B-Specials were coming in fact prompted people to start leaving for Donegal. Of course some people would have fought them, but the consequences would have been horrific. As they were in Belfast, where the RUC did use firearms.

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roddy - January 18, 2022

If the Specials were’nt in the heart of the action,why were they wearing DIY masks to protect themselves from the gas?

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WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2022

But roddy, disaffected youth poorly armed – by the avowed accounts of the time – against a Unionist militia that was mechanised, had supplies of weapons, had a sympathetic neighbour? It is one thing to riot and protest and to bring about civil disorder and no one could negate the ability of Nationalists to do that if they so chose, but to sustain that?

And the reality was that no British Army that existed then was going to walk away from the integrity of the UK. Just wasn’t a runner. It’s the equivalent of thinking the Soviets would land divisions across the north east coast and roll into Belfast.

Politically, practically and in every other way just not going to happen and therefore not a consideration, not really a counterfactual worth looking at.

For what it is worth there’s a broader point, mentioned in passing here the other day. It took a quarter of a century for unionism (and some British) to recognise that Northern Ireland had a Republican/Nationalist veto as well as a Unionist veto and that only recognising the latter meant there was no chance of moving on beyond armed struggle. And part of that Republican/Nationalist veto was the very real truth that both civil disorder and an armed struggle was possible to a degree that would make the running of the state an almost enormous cost in many different terms.

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EWI - January 18, 2022

But roddy, disaffected youth poorly armed – by the avowed accounts of the time – against a Unionist militia that was mechanised, had supplies of weapons, had a sympathetic neighbour?

The RUC and UDR weren’t mechanised but motorised, and would have been easy prey with their Land Rovers in an urban setting (and fared much worse in a rural one). They had no artillery and nothing suitable for urban warfare. A motivated group with small arms and a stock of food, water and ammunition could easily have defended such areas against them for weeks.

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

Motorised, you know what I mean. Easy prey for who though? Do you think the Republic would have stood by and allowed arms into the North in such a scenario? Or should have? They’d have been terrified they’d be used against themselves. How would the risen Nationalists, who would let’s recall were far from of one mind or supportive of armed struggle without question, have been resupplied? Who would have done so? And defend places for weeks until what? What would have been the next stage of this? The UN wouldn’t have intervened. The US likewise.

This was too soon for the British state to even countenance power sharing, let alone joint authority. Stormont had yet to be prorogued. And the actual history is one of the British Army being welcomed into CNR areas initially and for some time after as a means of damping down the violence of the Orange state.

What other actors would do anything much but push for a resumption of the status quo ante, which was British rule (after all a Treaty was signed between Ireland and Britain).

At the end of the day all this is simply circling around basic truths, that there were too many PUL’s for any Dublin government to think of taking this on, even had they wanted to, that there’d have been no appetite internationally for an internationalisation of the situation, there was no means for Dublin to take or hold anything of significance, throwing them into the mix with the British Army at the other side of the Border was a risk few with any sanity would take, there were no operational or even political goals – as evidence by the Irish Army’s own assessments.

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EWI - January 19, 2022

Motorised, you know what I mean. Easy prey for who though? Do you think the Republic would have stood by and allowed arms into the North in such a scenario? Or should have? They’d have been terrified they’d be used against themselves. How would the risen Nationalists, who would let’s recall were far from of one mind or supportive of armed struggle without question, have been resupplied? Who would have done so? And defend places for weeks until what? What would have been the next stage of this? The UN wouldn’t have intervened. The US likewise.

The posed question was simply ‘could the nationalists have defended their areas against the RUC and UDR?’. The answer is yes. The principles involved haven’t really changed since Jimmy Connolly led the lads into the GPO.

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10. Brian Hanley - January 18, 2022

I think some of the best overview of the ‘invasion’ question is on this blog

https://theborderkitchen.blog/august-1969-invasion/

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11. Blade Sprinter - January 18, 2022

roddy,

in your estimation, how many dead Catholics in Belfast would have been too many had the Irish army crossed the border?

Because it would have been a sectarian bloodbath and there is no way the Irish army would make it to Belfast before Unionists kicked off the slaughter, no way for those Catholics to defend themselves.

So how many dead in Belfast would you have accepted?

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roddy - January 18, 2022

As Goulding said “give us the stuff and we’ll do it ourselves”.There were plenty ready and willing to deter the Klansmen had they been equipped to do so and the free state army would’nt have been needed.

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Blade Sprinter - January 19, 2022

There was no amount of stuff, training or protection the south could have given Republicans in the north that would have changed the result. It would only have increased the body count.

Look at what the UK did in during the Troubles to win. With Frank Kitson appointed, there was no limit to what they were prepared to do to win. Republicans were never going to defeat the UK and force a withdrawal.

Again I ask. How many dead civilians in Belfast would have been too many? I sense you duck the question because we both know any number you stipulate that does not immediately scream horror would have been dwarfed by the reality of a Loyalist pogrom. It would have certainly been in the thousands and could easily have exceeded 10,000. Look at Aden, Kenya. This is what was faced in 1969.

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EWI - January 19, 2022

There was no amount of stuff, training or protection the south could have given Republicans in the north that would have changed the result. It would only have increased the body count.

I may be mistaking Roddy here, but he seems to be responding just to the concern posed somewhere upthread about defending Catholic areas. I see other people turning this into something about ‘winning’ a war with unionism (some more mischievously than others), but I don’t think anyone is claiming that the Irish Army could militarily defeat the British in a conflict, much less the local Catholic groups of whatever hue.

But as the PIRA have demonstrated (following on from the original IRA decades before) you don’t need to militarily win to achieve objectives.

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12. terrymdunne - January 18, 2022

“By three in the afternoon the police had been dislodged from their footholds at the bottom of Rossville Street and the battle lines, after two days, were being pushed back inexorably out of the Bogside and towards the commercial area of the city. Then, looking through the haze of gas, past the police lines, we saw the Specials moving into Waterloo Place. They were about to be thrown into the battle. Undoubtedly they would use guns. The possibility that there was going to be a massacre struck hundreds of people simultaneously. ‘Have we guns?’ people shouted to one another, hoping that someone would know, inching forward, more slowly now, as the police retreated, suddenly fearful of what was about to happen. We were about half way down William Street when the word came that British soldiers were marching across the bridge.”
https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/crights/mccann93.htm

That is why there are pictures of Specials with DIY tear gas protection from Derry ’69, and I might add, there are pictures of Specials from Derry ’69 armed with firearms, who were supposed to be armed only with batons. They were not however moved into a frontline role.

The ‘Battle of the Bogside’ was a victory for the resistance put up by the residents of Derry’s Catholic districts, but it was not a military conflict with the state – the violence deployed by the state was clearly restrained – probably in view of the wider political context (but then they had different orders in Belfast?) – I mean this is usually the case – otherwise every strike, riot or even slightly robust demonstration in human history would face airstrikes – the ability to fightback against the police *and* utilise that wider political context was key to the opposition to Stormont at that moment in time.

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 18, 2022

The more I read of this thread the more I think that Lynch did a good job and saved a lot of lives in ’69.

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EWI - January 18, 2022

The more I read of this thread the more I think that Lynch did a good job and saved a lot of lives in ’69.

The ‘more you read’, Joe?

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roddy - January 18, 2022

Unfortunately the rest of us did’nt “read” about the situation the Lynch’s of this world abandoned us in.

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13. roddy - January 19, 2022

To give people an idea how the orange state operated at the time,I’ll recount my memories of the 69 “long march”.It passed by the end of our lane and I as a 10 year old along with my younger brother joined in for about half a mile before running home for our tea.When my father came home from work,he decided to go and meet the marchers who were staying overnight in Brackareilly hall just above Maghera.My uncle drove my parents and us and as we reached the lower end of Maghera we were stopped by a group of Loyalists many of whom were off duty Specials while a handful of RUC men looked on. They asked us where we were going and my uncle lied he was going to visit his sister.( Others without children in their vehicle had their cars wrecked) I used the term “Klansmen” a few times in this thread because the similarities with the American South was uncanny.The march itself was attacked on several occasions by these supremacists while “their” police force looked on as they were now doing as motorists were attacked.The thing is Brackareilly was barely a mile up the road ,they knew the marchers were there but they had’nt the balls to go near it.And rightly so because the South Derry brigade (pre split) were dug in around the hall .The capability and willingness of many of these people to put themselves in any real danger is overhyped by many who did’nt experience the situation on the ground.

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

I don’t think there’s a person on this site who would have any time for the B-Specials or the RUC as organisations, full stop. But it doesn’t take any great effort or technical or military facility as we all know from Bosnia and multiple other examples to kick off a round of sectarian slaughter in a very short space of time. Those who have the weapons and ability and any given advantage will use that. None of this is something I’d have wanted to see put to the test given the relative geographic isolation of Belfast and the marginal situation of certain CNR in certain parts of the North.

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roddy - January 19, 2022

Unfortunately there were plenty in the 26 counties and I suspect one or two close to this site who had plenty of time for the RUC.

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EWI - January 19, 2022

But it doesn’t take any great effort or technical or military facility as we all know from Bosnia and multiple other examples to kick off a round of sectarian slaughter in a very short space of time.

The former Yugoslavia was a different case in that the regular army fractured at the same time (heavy regiments and all). Without tanks and aircraft you’re back to 1916; without artillery and any form of decent armoured personnel carrier you’re in an even worse situation, going nowhere fast, and more concerned with not getting shot.

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14. roddy - January 19, 2022

WBS ,I had no wish to push anyone into the sea but my initial point still stands that the Northern state could not have survived without British army intervention even if the Free State army had stayed at home. The arrival of the Brits took the steam out of the situation and bought time for the state to be stabilised.

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15. roddy - January 19, 2022

Neither the British army ,the RUC or UDR could use a single road in South Armagh for decades and were kept at bay by a relatively small force of insurgents.

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16. Francis Donohoe - January 19, 2022

The deep green revisionism and tribal bawling which has infected this discussion really does make you consider what sort of shit show the collapse of the southern left, to the extent that people are quite rightly turning to SF as the only player in the field to oppose the failed southern establishment, could result in.

Just a couple of points, ‘Goulding is not my leader’, he died in 1998. Also, the Loyalist community at this time I estimate, as an interested observer, would seem to boast, according to media and police reports, in excess of 10,000 persons associated with paramilitary organisations. These individuals can be derided, possibly deservedly, as much as you wish, however they provide a sizable amount of grunts (and that is before possible sizable recruitment) with which I believe that some sections of the more ‘respectable’ classes could well ally with if they are confronted with the kind of united Ireland approach presented by some here as a possible reality – put it this way I would imagine it will take some level of Loyalist bombs and bullets to persuade some of our posters that the kind of imperfect ‘unity, which WBS outlines, must be the reality.

How much better it would be if a rational, realistic and level headed approach can be taken that accepts maybe just peace rather than even such imperfect unity could be an acceptable legacy to leave further generations on this island rather than tribal victory

As for the urban warriors here and their fanciful claims of what could be done to oppose the British military and police forces arranged against them, the sad reality is of course that is not the war that would have emerged from their delirious dreaming. Also, again, we have on display what I can only hope is an unthinking sectarian and classist analysis of the Northern Irish Protestant working class and their, in my view unfortunate, dominant political ideology of Loyalism – this more than anything illustrates to me just how far from the type of united Ireland that I would like to see my children inherit we are from in reality.

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EWI - January 19, 2022

Also, again, we have on display what I can only hope is an unthinking sectarian and classist analysis of the Northern Irish Protestant working class and their, in my view unfortunate, dominant political ideology of Loyalism

It would be interesting to hear what exactly you mean by this, so you can show the rest of us who are ‘deep green revisionist’ and ‘bawling’ just how clever you are.

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17. yourcousin - January 19, 2022

🍿🍿🍿🍿

Just getting off work and preparing myself to catch up on what will obviously be a very well informed thread of comments. So excited to see a reasoned well thought out debate on what are obviously confirmable facts and events, with no whataboutery or alternate possible time lines.

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EWI - January 19, 2022

Thanos was right

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18. Dr Nightdub - January 19, 2022

Whatever about people being ready and willing to defend nationalist areas in 1969, the question is really “Would they have been able?” Basically, the RUC and Specials were fully armed and had armoured cars, while republicans had abundant resolve but only a handful of weapons.

Historian John Ó Néill in “Belfast Battalion” has written of how the garrison at Broadway defending the Falls from attacks from the Donegall Rd direction consisted of Joe Savage and Jimmy Steele, one a veteran of the 20s, the other of the 40s, between them aged over 130. Thereby disproving the “I Ran Away” slur simply because they wouldn’t have been physically up to running.

What happened in Belfast was in part due to trying to draw the RUC/Specials heat off the Bogside, which suggests the defenders of the Bogside needed the heat drawn off. And then it turned out the heat in Belfast was worse.

Not to diminish their subsequent behaviour by one iota, but there was a reason the British troops were welcomed when they appeared in Derry and Belfast…

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

+1 Dr Nightdub.

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19. roddy - January 19, 2022

A post about “revisionism” which states “Goulding is not my leader” says it all.He is revered to this day by your movement and the facts are I am engaged in a “what might have been” discussion of events that happened 50 years ago.I was 10 at the time.Goulding was in the thick of things then and demanded a Free state army invasion and failing that the supply of weapons.So just fuck off with your “tribal brawling”insults.

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

No call for that roddy.

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 19, 2022

I wanted to use the F word when EWI made a snide remark about me and reading. But I held back. When can I collect my badge?

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

In the post banjoagbeanjoe.

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EWI - January 19, 2022

I wanted to use the F word when EWI made a snide remark about me and reading. But I held back. When can I collect my badge?

I’ll ask the kids if they can donate a gold star, Joe

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20. roddy - January 19, 2022

There may be no call for the F word but it’s hard to hold back when being labelled a tribal brawler by someone from a movement whose grandees were looking for shooting by the southern state forces or who were quite prepared to do the killing themselves if that state would give them the weapons.Also the insinuation that somehow to take on the RUC was’nt “left” when the actual Left were going toe to toe with those discredited Northern state forces in Belfast and Derry in 69.Also it is not easy for many people up here to witness the gross Freestateism on display all week with RTE commemorating “the end to British rule in Ireland” and the likes of Charlie Flanigan celebrating “Independence day”.

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yourcousin - January 19, 2022

roddy,
Your point is taken and even understandable, but appreciate context here. Your party is in power in the north and the lead opposition party in the south. You’re not going to be able to shout down every person on the internet who says things about them that aren’t nice. And I get the whole “sticky” thing hurts worse, but again, context. Repeat what I just stated about your party and compare it to the workers party today. You won, take the win.

And then remind yourself that the CLR for whatever it’s quirks is generally a place where good humor and camaraderie prevail. Do we throw elbows and snark sometimes? Yes, but an elbow thrown is still not the equivalent of tackling someone because they got under your skin.

Think about what actually counts and go from there.

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 22, 2022

“you won”
Too soon to say, son.

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Bartholomew - January 22, 2022

Joe Enlai !

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roddy - January 22, 2022

Manchester United v Acrington Stanley circa 1968.

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 22, 2022

Yep. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

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yourcousin - January 22, 2022

Well pop, I’ll bet you a pint Ted Tynan loses his seat next time out. And the northern wing of the WP falls further into oblivion (of course they’ll probably still given a guest column in the Newsletter to lay into a SF FM). What the AC does in Dublin, aside from preaching about nuclear power and trying to lobby to get appointed a council seat remains to be seen. But color me skeptical.

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 22, 2022

Details, son. Mere details. Dublin is a sticky town.

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yourcousin - January 22, 2022

It may very well be that pop, but chances are it’ll be a sticky town with a Provo Taoiseach before too long.

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Paul Wilson - January 23, 2022

Your Cousin Tynans on record as saying he’s standing down next election, he’ll be 80.

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yourcousin - January 23, 2022

Mr. Wilson,
Thank you for the insight. That’s my mistake.

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

Well if there’s no call there’s no call, and to be clear he’s pretty much implying we are all involved in this so I could as easily take offence as you. But why bother?

If every argument in this context of his devolves back to Sinn Féin are sectarian bastards and every argument of yours devolves back to the Workers’ Party are just bastards then we don’t go very far (and as an aside wouldn’t it make more sense to acknowledge that in both parties there were different phases – I knew SFers in 1983 who’d look at the current platform, indeed anything since 1986, as treachery of the worst sort, and similarly OSF just wasn’t the same as the WP), as distinct from parsing the actual issues. So he runs for his framework where – despite the party he is a member of rhetorically being favour of a UI, any mention of it is like the political equivalent of kryptonite inevitably going to blow everyone up. And while of course there’s the irritating aspect to some of the commentary over the centenary events, but not all by any means, there’s no denying that pushing Britain out of twenty six counties in 1921-2 was an incredible achievement, did build towards future developments and is worth celebrating.

But other aspects of this thread, away from the fantasy nationalist football of who would win if we removed the British army from the equation are more troubling. Francis isn’t wrong that there’s been a classist and othering and arguably supremacist attitude towards loyalism and by extension parts of unionism, which is, just to be clear for anyone in any doubt, still a segment of the Irish working class and deserves a bit better than having it’s national identity seen as something that can be bartered away by money to repatriate – language and suggestions that sit a lot closer to far-right nationalist discourse than anything I would identify as left-wing, let alone Republican.

And just on that thought, it might be worth pointing out, and this isn’t aimed at you roddy, or anyone in particular, but a general point, the GFA/BA which was a genuine expression not merely of the democratic will of the people on this island, but of what the people on this island were and what it meant to be Irish – no-one gets to individually define who is Irish or tell others the identity people on this island define themselves is wrong. That’s already agreed.

“Affirm that whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of
their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination
for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos, and aspirations of both communities;
(vi) recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both
Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland’

“1. It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the
people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.”

“These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem.. “

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21. Colm B - January 19, 2022

Francie, you’re sure to win everyone over by crude name calling like that eh? But then again I suspect you are not coming here to convince anyone.

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22. roddy - January 19, 2022

I never argued for the repatriation of anyone and am on the record of advocating a parliament at Stormont for an interim period of at least 20 years to ensure Unionists would’nt be overwhelmed in a new Ireland freed from British rule . However I am not going to be “othered “as a sectarian monster for stating my opinion that 3000 RUC men and a rag tag orange militia could have held the line in 69 without the assistance of the British army.

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

I know you didn’t roddy and I think anyone here knows that over the years from your commenting here you’re far from a sectarian monster or anything other than thoughtful and considered and have a good humoured approach to holding your ground. You have every right to respond to Francis and that’s perfectly okay and to criticise him – as Colm B notes above he’s not here to win hearts and minds and as I said, I don’t think Francis is able to avoid framing stuff in a completely limited fashion, all I’m saying is just keep it a fraction cooler. It’s not a shot across your bows, more of a comradely thought.

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roddy - January 19, 2022

I have suitably cooled down after a hard days work and to quote P O’Neill of a bygone era – “all units have returned safely to base”!

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WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2022

I’m the same re work!

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23. Francis Donohoe - January 20, 2022

I am as interested as the next person in reasoned debate on these issues and would seriously like to influence people in a positive manner towards my position through thoughtful interventions. However, when I see things that, in my view, are the kind of wrongheadedness which has underpinned decades of unnecessary, or perhaps better put not progressive politically, violence I think not calling them out in stark terms is assisting no-one. Just how much of what passes for political debate in our country, and indeed many others, is based on just plain wrong recollection of the historic facts or very, very one sided approaches to them saddens me. In that light I think this discussion was very helpful as it shows the limits of what I would term the ‘left’-Irish nationalist project, which has been mainstreamed in recent years as the progressive agenda for Ireland. This project I believe is not essentially anchored in a rational appraisal of the past, present or the future and needs to be vigorously questioned. As WBS points out it is a project where some of its adherents seek to ignore, diminish or simply demonise a sizable section of the Irish working class. It is approach I fear that could tip over from bringing us social progress in certain areas to unleashing forces of regression.

On the matter of strong language being used that doesn’t concern me at all, it is the pushing of completely subjective, imagined or created to back one political agenda history which is my greatest concern. I find this approach is often prefixed with ‘I was there’, ‘what I saw’ etc well people who have drawn starkly different conclusions from what they saw, experienced of the violence in Northern Ireland must equally be appreciated and allowing debate in any forum to fall into a caricature of events concerning such critical issues is something that must be confronted. And have no doubt I just as clearly support and do believe completely subjective approaches that push British nationalism or indeed any other subjectively held political positions need just as rigorously confronted – and these views include very hard questioning and appraisal of the political movement that Roddy is so eager to attach/tar me with, indeed it is only as far as that movement was one which sought to vigorously intellectually question the tenets of accepted nationalist/tribal approaches to our politics and history that have me having any attachment with it. Simply put, in my view we’re dealing with a creep of progressive politics in many theatres towards what in all intends and purposes is ‘nationalism’, and I just don’t fundamentally think that is as positive as a class based approach.

I’ll conclude that my position is that I sincerely hope the next government in the republic is a left one, and accept that baring some massive change that will be one led by Sinn Féin – that is why I believe a questioning left approach to some of the positions associated with that party, which I believe could undermine the success of such a government, are essential.

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