NEW NI SUPER COUNCILS

Chris Page of BBC Northern Ireland reports on the new ‘Super’ Councils, that take over tomorrow. There will be eleven of them, with Belfast taking in parts of Castlereagh, which is being combined with Lisburn (LCCC). Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council joins up with Cookstown and Magherafelt in the new Mid-Ulster Council, while Strabane has been hitched to Londonderry. Fermanagh is combined with Omagh. The other six authorities are: Antrim and Newtownabbey District, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) District, Causeway Coast and Glens District, Mid and East Antrim District, Newry, Mourne and Down District and finally North Down and Ards District, whose website appears to be the only one not to have gone ‘live’ so far. It is easy to tell the Sinn Féin-controlled administrations as they have bilingual signs, with Irish often being given first preference above the English. Hardly a very inclusive start to the new structures. Here is an edited version of the report by Chris:

Life in local government will never be the same again. From weddings to waste management (and street cleaning), cemeteries, (parks) and leisure centres: their duties tended to be summed up as “emptying the bins and burying the dead”. Now they are taking on some important new powers. The eleven councils will take most planning decisions. Only those deemed to be “regionally significant” will be retained by the NI Environment Minister. In a year’s time, the local authorities will get powers for urban regeneration.

Tied to that, they will have responsibility for local economic development and tourism. The super-councils will also take over more than 300 off-street car parks from the Department for Regional Development. The idea is that councils will be able to take the lead in shaping towns, cities and rural areas. One example being held up is that of Manchester, where the council has led a striking city regeneration programme in recent years.

The chief executive of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), Derek McCallan, is “unapologetic” about his enthusiasm. “It’s a very compelling change for the average ratepayer and for the average politician. But there’ll be no such thing as an average council, because there’ll be no poverty of ambition from them. You can be sure of that,” he said.

Northern Ireland Local Government Association CEO Derek McCallan

Derek McCallan said the changes would mean that local councils could become real drivers of economic development in Northern Ireland. Photo: BBC NI

According to Mr McCallan, similar models of local government elsewhere in the world have brought more prosperity. “In places like the Netherlands, about 88% of development takes place in towns and cities driving their own development. Here, councils will now be able to be a real driver of economic development, rather than a consultee or a recipient of a grant.”

He, and others at the heart of the transition, believe it will take a few years for the new councils to bed-in and get used to using their new powers effectively. Most politicians will surely agree that working to improve local economies should be high on their priority list. But some political disagreement in council chambers is inevitable.

Already, there has been a row in the Mid-Ulster council, when a meeting in “shadow” format resulted in a ban on the sale of poppies or Easter lilies on council property. There has been controversy over Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s decision to place the Irish language above English on its signs. But on the eve of the handover, the super-councils are emphasising the potential positives rather than the possible pitfalls.

On Wednesday, there will be little, if any, change to council services – the public will probably not see much to suggest that a revolution in local government has begun. It may take several years before the public will see if this huge change in the way Northern Ireland is run will have a truly transformative effect.

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WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU GET PREGNANT?

Martha Lane Fox CBE Photo: BBC Radio 4 Website

Martha Lane Fox CBE Photo: BBC Radio 4 Website

It was a clever way to grab attention at the start of a televised address about the internet: the question above and the circumstances it was raised (by a potential investor when she was a young entrepreneur in her 20s) were set out in tonight’s BBC annual Dimbleby lecture by Martha Lane Fox, the UK Digital Champion appointed by the British government. She is a crossbench member of the House of Lords, appointed in March 2013. Still a digital entrepreneur, she is Chair of Go On UK, a charity dedicated to promoting computer literacy among the 10.8 million British people who do not use the internet.

She co-founded Europe’s largest travel and leisure website, lastminute.com, with Brent Hoberman in 1998; they took it public in 2000 and sold it in 2005 for £571 million. In March 2014 she was appointed Chancellor of the Open University. Martha co- founded and chairs LuckyVoice, revolutionising the karaoke industry. She chairs MakieLab and Forum for Good. She is a Non-Executive Director at Marks & Spencer, MyDeco.com and the Baileys-sponsored Women’s Prize for Fiction. In 2007 Martha founded her own charitable foundation Antigone.org.uk and also serves as a Patron of AbilityNet, Reprieve, Camfed and Just for Kids Law. In 2013 Martha was awarded a CBE.

In her blog, she gives a taster of her talk on DOT EVERYONE:

We need a new national institution to lead an ambitious charge – to make us the most digital nation on the planet.I don’t say this because I’m a fan of institutions. I say this because the values of the internet have always been a dialogue between private companies and public bodies. And right now the civic, public, non-commercial side of the equation needs a boost. It needs more weight.

We have an opportunity to make Britain brilliant at digital. We’ve been going too slow, being too incremental – in skills, in infrastructure, in public services. We need to be bolder.

A new institution could be the catalyst we need to shape the world we want to live in and Britain’s role in that world. Today, we’re letting big commercial technology platforms shape much of our digital lives, dominating the debate about everything from online privacy to how we build smart cities.

fact, I probably wouldn’t call it an institution at all. This is no normal public body.

It’s time to balance the world of dot com so I would create DOT EVERYONE.

I would prioritise three areas, that I think best demonstrate the opportunities we should be grabbing with both hands: education, women and ethics.

Firstly, DOT EVERYONE has to help educate all of us, from all walks of life, about the internet. The internet is the organising principle of our age, touching all our lives, every day. As the late activist Aaron Swartz put it, “It’s not OK not to understand the Internet anymore”.

We need to make sure that those in power understand how the internet can help us redefine public services, improve the lives of the most vulnerable, bolster our economy. Leaders and legislators cannot lay claim to grasping the power and potential of the internet just because they’re on Twitter.

Crucially, we must ensure that no one is left behind; that the 10 million adults who can’t enjoy the benefits of being online because they lack basic digital skills, no longer miss out.

Secondly, DOT EVERYONE must put women at the heart of the technology sector. Currently there are fewer women in the digital sector than there are in Parliament.

Something that is for everyone should be built by everyone. Do you think that social media platforms would have done more to stop abuse if they had more women in senior positions? I do. And how about the Apple Health Kit that went to market without anything to do with periods? Building an awesome cohort of female coders, designers, creators would help make us the most digitally successful country on the planet and give us a real edge.

Finally, we should aim for a much more ambitious global role in unpicking the complex moral and ethical issues that the internet presents. For example, what are the implications of an internet embedded in your home appliances? Do children need online rights? What is an acceptable use of drones?

Our rule of law is respected the world over; we should be world-leading in answering these questions.

DOT EVERYONE is new – it won’t and shouldn’t feel familiar. No grey suits, no dusty buildings. It will be an independent organisation. It will have a strong mandate from government, but also from the public – we will be setting its agenda, we will be informing it and taking part in it. It might produce written reports but it would also prototype services. It should show what is possible when you put the internet at the heart of design.

We should be making sure that the original promises of the internet – openness, transparency, freedom and universality – are a protected national asset, as integral to our soft power as Adele, JK Rowling, Shakespeare, or even Downton Abbey.

Britain invented the BBC, the NHS – let’s not have a poverty of ambition – we can and should be inventing the definitive public institution for our digital age.

If you like the idea, I have set up a petition at change.org so please sign it.  And please blog, tweet, respond – lets start the debate.

https://www.change.org/p/the-uk-prime-minister-create-dot-everyone-a-public-institution-for-the-digital-age

ARCHBISHOP’S APPEAL ON DISAPPEARED

Columba McVeigh, one of the 'disappeared'

Columba McVeigh, one of the ‘disappeared’

The Catholic Primate of All-Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh has made a new appeal for information to help find the remains of the six people known as “The Disappeared”. RTÉ News reported that Archbishop Eamon Martin celebrated Mass with family members of the victims in Armagh this afternoon.

As happened with his predecessor, Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop Martin this afternoon celebrated Palm Sunday mass in Armagh with families who had a loved one killed and secretly buried by republicans during the troubles. Since the mid-1990’s ten bodies have been recovered but six are still missing.

A dig for the remains of one of them, Joe Lynskey, began in a County Meath bog earlier this month.

Archbishop Martin said some families are living a long Good Friday. He appealed to the conscience of anyone who has information that might help to come for forward. His hope is the six affected families could, at this late stage, be able to offer a christian burial to their loved ones.

In recent years republicans, through confidential channels set up by the Irish and British governments, gave information that led to the recovery of the remains of several victims.

Annually on Palm Sunday in the College Chapel of Saint Patrick’s Grammar School in Armagh a Mass of Remembrance is held. For the past sixteen years the gathering helps the families to connect with each other in solidarity and compassion. Eleven of the seventeen families have recovered the long-lost bodies of their loved ones.

The text of his homily was published by the Catholic Communications Office:

“Some families are living a long Good Friday, and it is difficult for them to know the Easter promise of resurrection”
“I appeal to the conscience of anyone who has information that might help to come forward to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains”  – Archbishop Martin.

“It is a humbling experience for me to meet and pray for the first time today with families of ‘The Disappeared’. For sixteen years the families of those abducted, murdered and secretly buried, have gathered annually on Palm Sunday here at Saint Patrick’s College in Armagh for a Mass of Remembrance. The gathering helps the families to connect with each other in solidarity and compassion.

Over these sixteen years the families have comforted each other, and consoling friendships have formed among them. There have been moments of hope when fresh information has come forward leading to a new search. There have been great disappointments when some of those searches have proven futile. And, thank God, during that time, eleven of the seventeen families have recovered the long-lost bodies of their loved ones, allowing them to begin at last to find some closure.

For other families the pain, uncertainty and waiting continues. Today, as we begin Holy Week, their sorrowful burden reminds me of how our Saviour had to carry His heavy Cross along the Via Dolorosa. Some families are living a long Good Friday, and it is difficult for them to know the Easter promise of resurrection. The recovery, last October in County Meath, of Brendan Megraw’s body, encourages them not to lose hope. I appeal to the conscience of anyone who has information that might help to come forward to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains so that, even at this late stage, the remaining families can experience the consolation of being able to offer a Christian burial to their loved ones. They come with the assurance that the information can only be used to recover the bodies of those disappeared”.

Archbishop Martin also issued a Joint Holy Week and Easter 2015 message with the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh,  Archbishop Richard Clarke:

We join in wishing you all, wherever you may be, a blessed Holy Week and a joyful Eastertide.  We invite you to enter with real spiritual seriousness into the powerful story of Holy Week so that you can experience personally and profoundly the joy and happiness of Easter.

Easter Day is far more than a happy ending to the sad tale of Good Friday. Rather it is the celebration of the ultimate victory of God over all that damages, terrifies and destroys us.
On Good Friday it seemed that the worst that the world can do was victorious over the best that there can ever be. The crucifixion was the rejection of all that it is to be truly human. It was the refusal to believe that only in Christ can men and women find their truest identity and fullest humanity. It was the attack of darkness on the reality of a total Love.
All around us today, we still see powerful signs of that same darkness in our world. It is found in in the horrors of cruel and vicious inhumanity to those who are seen as other; in the day to day debasement of the dignity of those who are unable to defend themselves; in physical violence, murder, war and persecution. It issues in the extreme selfishness of some individual lives that have fallen away catastrophically from any generosity and forgiveness.
But in the compassionate cry of abandonment from the cross, Good Friday reminds us that God is to be found not among those who can destroy others most effectively, but rather totally with those who are at the receiving end of the envy, spite and viciousness of others.
Saint Paul describes the resurrection of Christ as the “first fruits” – the evidence that there will be a harvest of hope, and a final victory of love over hatred, injustice and futility.
May we together follow trustfully with Jesus Christ on the way to the Cross, and share fully with him in the joy of his resurrection. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

+Eamon Martin​​​​​                                                                             +Richard Clarke

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh                      ​​Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh

EASTER EGG HUNT CARRICKMACROSS

The Easter Bunny is in town Photo: Carrickmacross Chamber of Commerce

The Easter Bunny is in town Photo: Carrickmacross Chamber of Commerce

Passing through Carrickmacross? Then take part in the Chamber of Commerce annual Easter Egg hunt which started today and runs until Easter Saturday 4th April.

Photo: Carrickmacross Chamber of Commerce

Photo: Carrickmacross Chamber of Commerce

The hunt takes in shops and businesses from all over town. Each business has two eggs hidden in their window.  Everyone is invited to come along and take part. Entry forms are available from Bits and Bobs, Birdys, and Keegans newsagent’s. There are great prizes for the winner and lots of chances to win something on Easter Saturday if you are around.  Carrickmacross Chamber of Commerce invites you to come along and take part in the hunt.  Remember the safe cross code when crossing the streets, and you are advised to wear a high-viz vest.

On the Easter Egg trail Photo: Carrickmacross Chamber of Commerce

On the Easter Egg trail Photo: Carrickmacross Chamber of Commerce

ORGAN DONATION WEEK

Kevin Hickey from Monaghan and other transplant recipients  with Donor Awareness Ambassador Mary Kennedy at the launch in Dublin Photo © Conor McCabe Photography

Kevin Hickey from Monaghan and other transplant recipients with Donor Awareness Ambassador Mary Kennedy at the launch in Dublin Photo © Conor McCabe Photography

ORGAN DONOR AWARENESS WEEK LAUNCHED IN DUBLIN

Northern Standard Thursday 26th March 2015  IMG_20150327_000602

UCD law student Kevin Hickey, aged 22, from the Cootehill Road in Monaghan is among 3000 people in Ireland enjoying extended life as a result of organ transplantation. This is his story:

Born with a crippling defect in my heart muscle, I was gravely ill as a baby and under the care of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. Following a relative stabilisation of my condition, I went on to live what I believed was a relatively normal, healthy existence. However, in January of 2014 my health nosedived. I presented myself to hospital in late January of that year and didn’t emerge from inpatient care until mid-April, by which time I had received a heart transplant at the Mater Hospital in Dublin.   

My end-stage deterioration was swift and brutal, culminating in exhaustion and my heart being unable to function to any satisfactory degree without the assistance of invasive devices. So grave was my position that, by late February, I was placed on the waiting list for a transplant. My decline continued rather swiftly from that point forth, incorporating blood clots amongst other hugely painful events. 

My survival chances were grim with medical thinking being that, without a transplant, my life expectancy was abysmal – less than 50% chance of lasting a year and less than 5% likelihood of making it to 27 years of age.   

In late March, just as my condition was at an extremely low point, I received word from the wonderful Transplant Team in the Mater Hospital that a heart might be available. Following an excruciating wait one Saturday evening, including a battery of tests, it was agreed that the heart was a match. The operation could go ahead.  

In the absence of organ donation, I would most likely not be here today. Not only would my existence be unlikely, it is unquestionable that my standard of living has improved immensely. I feel better now than I have done my entire life – a sense of energy that I never enjoyed with my old heart.   

Organ donation has provided me with the gift of life, as it has done for many others. What we must do now is encourage the message of its merits to be spread. It is truly the most generous thing a person can possibly do – whether said person is a loved one agreeing that the organs of a clinically dead loved-one be donated or the extremely selfless act that is living organ donation.  

The gift of life is something that is required all too often. Even in our locality at present, there is a beautiful baby from Corcaghan under the care of Our Lady’s Hospital as she awaits a life saving heart transplant.  

I cannot begin to thank all of the people in my life who have assisted me over this period, ranging from my wonderful family and friends to the fantastic medical staff in the Mater Hospital, Dublin. Of course, it is to the donor family whom I will never know that I must express the greatest gratitude. 

The Mater Hospital in Dublin conducted a record number of heart and lung transplant operations in 2014. It was also a record year for kidney transplants for children and more living donor kidney transplants were carried out last year than ever before.

Kevin Hickey attended the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar T.D. at the Mansion House in Dublin on Monday. A life saving awareness campaign organised by the Irish Kidney Association will begin on Saturday and continues until 4th April. During the week IKA volunteers will be distributing organ donor cards and selling ‘forget-me-not flower’ emblems in towns and villages throughout the country.

In his address at the national launch, Mr Varadkar said, “an organ transplant can make an enormous difference to a patient, and to the lives of those around them. That’s why Organ Donor Awareness Week is an important annual event. Although Ireland has a reasonable strong record on organ donation, I would like to see our rates rise to levels seen in other European countries. In 2014 the number of deceased donors was lower than in 2013, but we performed well in terms of maximising the number of organs that were transplanted. A total of 251 transplants were performed thanks to the generosity of 63 deceased donors and 40 living donors. Last year I launched a new scheme to reimburse the expenses of living donors. And additional funding of almost €3m has been provided to the HSE’s Organ Donation and Transplant Office to develop the most appropriate infrastructure for organ donation and transplantation. This includes for 19 whole-time-equivalent staff dedicated to organ donation and transplantation across the country”.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of heart transplantation and the 10th anniversary of lung transplantation at the Mater Hospital.

Irish Kidney Association Monaghan Branch Members Margaret McCague (Scotstown) and Martin Thornton with Donor Awareness Ambassador Mary Kennedy (right)   Photo © Conor McCabe Photography

Irish Kidney Association Monaghan Branch Members Margaret McCague (Scotstown) and Martin Thornton with Donor Awareness Ambassador Mary Kennedy (right) Photo © Conor McCabe Photography

COUNCILLORS OPPOSE GAMING OUTLETS

Ground floor unit in Carrickmacross proposed for conversion into a private members gaming club Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ground floor unit in Carrickmacross proposed for conversion into a private members gaming club Photo: © Michael Fisher

COUNCILLORS CONTINUE TO OPPOSE GAMBLING OUTLETS 

Michael Fisher

All six Councillors in the Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District have again highlighted their opposition to a proposed private members gaming club in Carrickmacross. A fortnight ago planners in Monaghan County Council put on hold an application by Carrick Gold Mine Ltd to set up a private gaming club in a vacant commercial unit off Main Street, beside the car park at the rear of the Shopping Centre at Drummond Etra.

Carrickmacross-Castleblayney MD Councillors PJ O'Hanlon, Aidan Campbell, Colm Carthy and Padraig McNally Photo © Michael Fisher

Carrickmacross-Castleblayney MD Councillors PJ O’Hanlon, Aidan Campbell, Colm Carthy and Padraig McNally Photo © Michael Fisher

The applicants said the proposed use of the premises would be for a professionally managed Private Members Gaming Club. It would provide card games like Baccarat and other games like Texas Holdem etc “for groups of dedicated card players”. It would the Club’s intention to have weekly Poker tournaments, some of which would be for local sports teams and associations, according to the letter. The club’s facilities would be open to members only, who must be over eighteen.

Planning officials have requested additional information about a number of aspects and have given the applicants six months to reply to the Council.

Cllr Jackie Crowe (SF), Cathaoirleach Carrickmacross=Castleblayney Municipal District Council  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Cllr Jackie Crowe (SF), Cathaoirleach Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District Council Photo: © Michael Fisher

The March meeting of the Municipal District Council held in Carrickmacross and chaired by Cllr Jackie Crowe heard from District Co-Ordinator Cathal Flynn that because of a loophole in current legislation, there was nothing the District Council could do to prevent the operation of such a club, if the application was approved. Councillor Padraig McNally asked for Standing Orders to be suspended so that he could ask a question seeking additional information, following last month’s decision to write to the Minister for Justice, asking for local authorities to be able to introduce bye-laws that would prohibit gaming facilities, including gaming clubs. He was told that the Council had received a letter from the office of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald T.D., last week. It informed Councillors that the government had approved the general scheme of the Gambling Control Bill in July 2013. The scheme was currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, awaiting legal drafting. A copy has been made available on the Department’s website. The letter, signed by the Minister’s Private Secretary, said that upon enactment of this proposed legislation, the Minister would assume the sole regulatory function as relates to all forms of gambling, with the exception of the National Lottery. It was not possible to indicate at this point when the Bill is likely to be published, according to the Minister’s Office.

Cllr Padraig McNally (FF) Photo © Michael Fisher

Cllr Padraig McNally (FF) Photo © Michael Fisher

Councillor McNally said this letter should be circulated to local Deputies and they should be asked to help speed up the process of bringing the Bill through the Dáil, so as to ensure this planning application would come under the remit of any new gambling legislation.

Cllr PJ O'Hanlon (FF) Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr PJ O’Hanlon (FF) Photo: © Michael Fisher

His party colleague Councillor PJ O’Hanlon said they would do everything in their power through the Council to stop such private members clubs. As public representatives they had a role and a function to represent the views of people on the ground.

Cllr Colm Carthy  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Colm Carthy Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillor Colm Carthy said a number of local businesses and residents in Carrickmacross had already been in contact with Oireachtas members and they would push the issue to try to get it resolved. Councillor Noel Keelan said their aim should be to try to close the planning loophole concerning private members gaming clubs. Councillor McNally proposed and Councillor O’Hanlon seconded a motion, which was passed unanimously:

“That this Authority writes to our local TDs to ensure the speedy passage of legislation in Dáil Éireann and to seek their support for measures to stop such gambling outlets from receiving consent for planning authorities and court services”.

Cllr Noel Keelan  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Noel Keelan Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Northern Standard

                  The Northern Standard

COUNCILLORS DEFEND LIBRARY SERVICE

Carrickmacross-Castleblayney MD Councillors PJ O'Hanlon, Aidan Campbell, Colm Carthy and Padraig McNally Photo © Michael Fisher

Carrickmacross-Castleblayney MD Councillors PJ O’Hanlon, Aidan Campbell, Colm Carthy and Padraig McNally Photo © Michael Fisher

COUNCILLORS OPPOSE PLANS TO CHANGE LIBRARY SERVICE  

Michael Fisher

Moves to amalgamate library services in Monaghan and Cavan by the appointment of a joint librarian will be strongly opposed by Councillors in the Carrickmacross and Castleblayney area. A meeting of the Municipal District Council on Monday discussed a submission received by a Ballybay resident and member of the local library, who expressed her concerns over the issue. She said there was a real fear among members that if the proposal goes ahead then smaller libraries like the one in Ballybay would close. The library service is important to local communities on many levels, she told Councillors, and she asked them to contact Minister Alan Kelly to get him and his department to abolish the proposed amalgamation.

Cllr Padraig McNally (FF) Photo © Michael Fisher

Cllr Padraig McNally (FF) Photo © Michael Fisher

Councillor Padraig McNally said they had been told the only proposal was to share the County Librarian between the two counties. But he said they did not need such a change as they already had a good system in place. He proposed that the District strongly objected to any amalgamation. This was the thin end of the wedge and next thing they would be looking at the fire service, he said. The county had already been stripped of so many services.

Cllr PJ O'Hanlon (FF) Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr PJ O’Hanlon (FF) Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillor PJ O’Hanlon said this was the start of another service being taken away from the county. Councillor McNally proposed and his party colleague Councillor O’Hanlon seconded a motion:

“That this Municipal District rejects any amalgamation of our library services. Monaghan has a proud record of providing library services and does not need to be linked with any other counties or regions”. It was passed unanimously.

Cllr Noel Keelan (SF)  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Cllr Noel Keelan (SF) Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillor Noel Keelan said ‘amalgamation’ was another word for cuts and proposed a motion: “That this District Council writes to the Minister, Mr Alan Kelly T.D., requesting that the proposed amalgamation does not proceed, given how important the Library Service is to the people”. Councillor Colm Carthy seconded and this motion was also agreed.

Cllr Jackie Crowe (SF), Cathaoirleach Carrickmacross=Castleblayney Municipal District Council  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Cllr Jackie Crowe (SF), Cathaoirleach Carrickmacross=Castleblayney Municipal District Council Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cathaoirleach Councillor Jackie Crowe said they were all absolutely opposed to any amalgamation.

Northern Standard

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