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Northern Ireland

Written By: - Date published: 7:56 am, June 11th, 2017 - 58 comments
Categories: democratic participation, uk politics - Tags: , ,

We thought we had it bad with Winston Peters. Here’s a post-election process of enormous complexity and portent. The UK election has yielded not just a hung parliament but one where it is unclear who can functionally govern. Tradition dictates that the incumbent government gets first crack at forming the new government. The Conservatives are going to try by forming a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party, a far right fundamentalist party in Northern Ireland with 10 seats.

Two more explanations of the issues,

The full thread from Jack Bernhardt is worth reading, where he explains in simple terms the current ongoing constitutional crisis in Northern Ireland and the implications of the Conservatives/DUP deal which will create a conflict of interest for the government’s neutral role in helping resolve the crisis.

Belfast Journalist Siobhan Fenton writes,

After failing to secure enough votes to command a majority at Westminster, May has announced she will attempt to run a minority government through support from the controversial Northern Irish party’s 10 MPs.

But Northern Irish politicians say they fear that means Conservatives will no longer be seen as impartial facilitators of the Northern Ireland peace process due to the coalition, endangering ongoing talks to try reach a power-sharing deal in the region.

Northern Ireland is currently without a government as power-sharing between nationalists and unionists collapsed in January. The parties have been in intensive negotiations reach an agreement to return to power-sharing. The talks were paused during the general election campaign but are due to resume on Monday.

Background on NI peace process and the Good Friday Agreement is here.

Unsurprisingly there are other issues and further complications,

There is still talk of the possibility of a Labour minority government. The next formal step in forming government is the intending party’s Queen’s Speech and a confidence vote. There is talk of Labour putting forward its own Queen’s Speech and budget and asking for parliament to vote it in.

The Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech is delivered by the Queen from the Throne in the House of Lords. Although the Queen reads the Speech, it is written by the government. It contains an outline of its policies and proposed legislation for the new parliamentary session.

After the Queen’s Speech

When the Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts and Parliament gets back to work. Members of both Houses debate the content of the speech and agree an ‘Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech’. Each House continues the debate over the planned legislative programme for several days, looking at different subject areas. The Queen’s Speech is voted on by the Commons, but no vote is taken in the Lords.

Even if that becomes impossible, the opposition led by Jeremy Corbyn will be so strong as to make the government’s job grim, including the potential for real challenges to the neoliberal establishment.

And then there is Brexit.

The historic and contemporary situation in Northern Ireland is complex enough on its own, and now this is in the mix. I’m still trying to get my head around the issues, but it’s looking more and more like the Conservatives are intent on power at all costs even if that means governing in a minefield. It remains to be seen if they can pull that off.

 

58 comments on “Northern Ireland ”

  1. joe90 1

    A Redditor comments on why a formal Tory/DUP coalition is a cause for concern.

    Even a confidence and supply agreement is too close.

    A British Government reliant on the support of the DUP for their majority is in the same position as one in a formal coalition with the DUP with regard to negotiations in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein and the SDLP already don’t believe that the British Government under May acts as a neutral facilitator for negotiations, not without reason, and if the Government is propped up by the DUP then they simply can’t claim to be an honest, neutral broker.

    So the Tories relying on the DUP, even just with confidence and supply, vindicates everything that Sinn Fein have said about British rule in Northern Ireland for decades – that the British aren’t honest brokers, that they can’t be trusted, that they will always side with unionists, that there is nothing in the union for Irish republicans and nationalists, that there’s nothing in the union even for soft unionists who reject the DUP’s corruption and conservatism, that the only option to represent the interests of most people in NI is a united Ireland.

    This is very bad news for power sharing. Talks in the past have succeeded because nationalists have accepted that the British Government has no interest in Northern Ireland beyond respecting the right of its people to self-determination. This was certainly the case under Blair, and I think under the coalition too. This principle is the foundation of the Good Friday Agreement. If the Government ends up in a partisan position where they owe their position in the Commons to the DUP then that will undermine the confidence of nationalists in the process and make it much less likely that negotiations will be successful.

    And let’s not forget that the negotiations are scheduled to end at the end of June – just in time for loyalist marching season, traditionally the most tense time of year in Northern Ireland. Everyone involved needs to tread very carefully, but May’s government seems to lack any understanding of Northern Ireland and has in the past shown itself willing to be played by the DUP so I don’t for a second believe that they will be at all careful.

    So it’s a disaster for power sharing, but Sinn Fein will be loving it. I imagine Gerry Adams is rubbing his hands with glee. Theresa May is handing them a huge win because she doesn’t understand Northern Ireland.

    May wants formal coalition with DUP from ukpolitics

    • dukeofurl 1.1

      The Ulster assembly was already at a stalemate before the UK elections, and had been for some time
      That had nothing to do with the situation in Westminster, nor will it.

      of course the DUP improved their position in the North , up 2 seats, but so did SF.

      the march elections made changes due to the reduced number of MPs, but the DUP share of vote was slightly down while the SF went up.
      Since the structure is designed for power sharing not one side winning over the other, I cant see how the situation in London affecting a stalemate in Belfast

      • You don’t think it affects that situation that the UK branch of DUP will be in a minority government deal with the conservatives, who are simultaneously supposed to mediate their deal with SF or be the alternative if no deal is reached? (ie. NI reverting to direct rule from Westminster)

        Because it does. This is the sort of thing the UK media should have been covering pre-election so that people were aware of the disastrous consequences and the conservatives could have been forced to commit to not sharing power with DUP.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    but it’s looking more and more like the Conservatives are intent on power at all costs

    That’s always been true. Just need to look at John Banks’ “If I wear my policy on my sleeve, I won’t get elected to realise that.

  3. Glenn 3

    Shame this lot won’t attend..

    Westminster remains the only parliament boycotted by Sinn Féin. In both Dublin and Belfast the party has engaged in legislative activity and has been rewarded by the electorate. The only obstacle to Sinn Féin MPs taking their seats in London is their opposition to the parliamentary oath.

    A century since abstention from Westminster began, the nature of and rationale for the policy has changed dramatically. Sinn Féin has clearly benefited politically from participating in the Dublin and Belfast parliaments.

    Taking their seats would allow Sinn Féin MPs to give more substance to their strong Remain stance. The party could conceivably be in a uniquely powerful position.

    http://theconversation.com/fighting-an-election-only-to-refuse-a-seat-sinn-fein-and-westminster-abstention-76963

    UK Parliamentary oath…
    I (name of Member) swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.

    • dukeofurl 3.1

      Technically in the Stormont parliament , the Sinn Fein Mps are elected as ‘independents’

      “Each MLA is free to designate themselves as “nationalist”, “unionist”, or “other”, as they see fit, The SDLP are called nationalist, while Alliance and Green party are amoung ‘others’

    • RJL 3.2

      But Dublin and Belfast are in Ireland. Westminster isn’t.

  4. Karen 4

    I think my favourite description of the DUP is that it is the political wing of the 17th century.

    There is no way May will be able to hold this together. Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tories in Scotland, is already talking about breaking with the English Tories (she is a lesbian and her partner is an Irish Catholic). There will be many tories who see the problems that are going to ensue in Northern Ireland because of this deal mean that it is not worth it.

    It is possible to run a minority government in Britain. Their rules on Confidence and Supply are a bit different to NZ because of the Fixed Term legislation:

    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/under-the-fixed-term-parliaments-act-a-minority-government-doesnt-need-a-confidence-and-supply-arrangement-to-be-able-to-govern/

    However, I can’t see it working for more than a few months. Another election seems inevitable.

    • weka 4.1

      Still trying to get the process clear. Are the Tories still the govt? Or they’re just holding the reins until a new govt is appointed?

      And that appointment happens when the House votes on a “That this House has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.” and that vote passes i.e it needs a majority (not 50%, because MPs can abstain, and Sinn Fein will)?

      And the Queen’s Speech is roughly the time when such a confidence vote would be taken?

      btw, noting the date on that article (2015) and that the MSM have had more than ample time to get their heads around this and explain it to the voting public clearly. Gobsmacking that they haven’t, but then it’s not too dissimilar in NZ.

      • Karen 4.1.1

        The Tories get to make the first attempt at forming a government because they are the biggest party. They need to get a majority of the house expressing confidence in their ability to govern – that is a majority of those who are eligible to vote, not a majority of those who actually vote.

        If they fail to get this at the first sitting then Corby gets a chance to do the same. He doesn’t need to be in a coalition, he just needs a majority saying he can lead the government. Once either has achieved enough support to form a government then they are the government until there is a majority of the house voting no confidence.

        Once that happens (whether it is May or Corbyn as PM) there has to be an election.

        • weka 4.1.1.1

          So the confidence vote will be the same day as the Queen’s Speech? (19th June).

          “that is a majority of those who are eligible to vote, not a majority of those who actually vote.”

          Do you mean they need 326 votes irrespective of what Sinn Fein (or other abstainers) do?

          • Bill 4.1.1.1.1

            It would appear to be that way. So a few Tory backbenchers pulling the plug would work. Not that that would deliver for UK Labour (it’s one thing to abstain and quite another to vote for the opposition)

            I believe if there is no government after 14 days, it’s back to the polls.

            • weka 4.1.1.1.1.1

              that explains why the Guardian graphics had SF in the opposition side and were still counting a full 650.

              And in which case Labour can’t form govt either.

              • Bill

                Just been looking at “the Act”.

                Forget the bit about the 14 days triggering a return to the polls. That only kicks in if Parliament has been dissolved. And that only comes about with a 2/3rds vote.

                Now I might have said that barring a deal with the DUP, someone is going to have to put forward a motion of dissolution. But then, since there is no government to not have any confidence in…

                Clusterfuck days straight ahead. 🙂

                • Bill

                  Jeesus! here I am rowing back and forth 🙂

                  Okay. From a slower reading of “the Act”. (I’ve bolded for clarity)

                  Early parliamentary general elections

                  (1)An early parliamentary general election is to take place if—

                  (a )the House of Commons passes a motion in the form set out in subsection (2), and

                  (b)if the motion is passed on a division, the number of members who vote in favour of the motion is a number equal to or greater than two thirds of the number of seats in the House (including vacant seats).

                  (2)The form of motion for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) is—

                  “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election.”

                  So there we go. A 2/3rds vote secures a new election.

                  • dukeofurl

                    the bit about losing a confidence motion at any time, will cause an election is true.
                    if she cant form a majority and win a confidence motion in the next few weeks ( very unlikely) there would have to be a new election.

                  • weka

                    So… if DUP vote in that one initial vote to support the Cons (on the 19th), then the Tories are in for 5 years not matter what unless there is a either vote of no confidence passed with 51%, and/or a vote of 2/3rds of the House to have a new election?

                    • dukeofurl

                      Thats right . The torys have to go 5 years unless there is either :

                      (1) lose no confidence motion- last one was under Callaghan in 1979
                      (2) have 2/3 vote to have early election – which we just had , so cant see them wanting that one again soon if ever.

                      the 3rd option, which is no longer available is to have an election at the PMs choosing. Of course they could legislate to repeal the 5 yr fixed terms.

                    • Karen

                      There can be a vote of no confidence at any time.

                      At a guess, I’d say there will enough Tories opposed to any deal with the DUP for May to be forced into looking for another solution to get the numbers. If she can’t do that (or she refuses) she will be rolled as leader and someone else, presumably Johnson, will take over and try to get confidence support (not coalition) from the Lib Dems. That would at least ensure a soft Brexit.

                      I doubt any party wants to take responsibility for having to have another election immediately so there will be cooperation for a while at least. Can’t see it lasting 5 years, however.

                    • Bill

                      Think you might have hit it on the head there Karen. (I think we all know the tune)

                      12 Liberal Democrats sitting on a wall…

                    • dukeofurl

                      “she will be rolled as leader and someone else, presumably Johnson, will take over and try to get confidence support”

                      How can she be ‘rolled’ as leader ?

                      The Conservative leader is elected from 2 candidates by a postal ballot of all party members.

                      the days of the Mps soley decided were long ago . Its not that different from UK labour ( except they dont have electoral college)

                    • weka

                      @duke how is a vote triggered?

            • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1.1.2

              I believe if there is no government after 14 days, it’s back to the polls.

              So, there’s a high probability of there being another election in a few weeks?

              • Bill

                No. See above. I was a bit hasty on the 14 days thing.

              • dukeofurl

                Why would they have a new election.
                Simple arithmetic says Torys + DUP = majority [ excluding SF 7 & Speaker]

                A majority of a few is not uncommon in UK. In the last years of Major they were down a quite a few Mps due to by elections and relied on support of the then UUP.
                That government lasted 5 years despite loosing occasional votes ( but not budget or condfidence votes)

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Simple arithmetic says Torys + DUP = majority

                  True – except that that appears to be against standing agreements which means that such a coalition can’t be made without breaking the law which is what the post is all about.

                  • dukeofurl

                    “means that such a coalition can’t be made without breaking the law ”

                    Where did you come up with that ? I call that bullshit.
                    Standing agreements are nothing to do with breaking laws anyway.

                    You are confusing an ‘opinion’ about forming a government in Stormont with what will happen in Westminister.
                    Their assembly has lapsed before when both sides coundnt come to terms.

                    The DUP wont be joining the government in Westminster , they will only be confidence and supply. There wont be an DUP Secretary State for Northern Ireland.

                    The guy is only speculating, perhaps he has a barrow to push.
                    he was wrong as Major did depend on the UUP back then. Bizarre comments he makes.

                  • dukeofurl

                    “Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams said: “Sinn Fein has never accepted that the British government is impartial or neutral.”

                    As Sinn fein is the other major group in The NI assembly, it seems they wouldnt see any difference from previous governments , supported by DUP or otherwise

                    The very small NI Conservatives themselves were once opposed to the Good Friday agreements

  5. One Anonymous Bloke 5

    Thanks for posting this Weka. I wonder whether May will see sense.

    I suppose the EU might postpone Brexit negotiations while the Brits sort themselves out. If not…drool Britannia.

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      That wont happen.

      The Commons voted by nearly 500 Mps for the Brexit to begin, which means negioations are largely done by civil servants anyway.
      Labour policy was to continue with Brexit, only the Lib dems and Greens were for a second referendum while the SNP hedged a bit by only saying that Scotland remain in Common market ( which was impossible)

      • weka 5.1.1

        Why won’t it happen? Presumably the civil service still needs to take its direction from parliament.

        • Wayne 5.1.1.1

          Labour supports Brexit, though who knows in what form.

          The Brexit negotiations are going to be a disaster, and in my view will collapse within a year. It is almost certain that the British will not be able to agree on what type of Brexit they want. Failed negotiations means Britain just leaves at the end of two years.

          But there will still need to be legislation to implement the exit, which will not pass. Tory rebels will vote against.

          That means a new election, sometime in April/May 2019. May won’t be the leader at that point. Who knows who will be? But I suspect the Conservatives will take a chance with Boris. Playing safe will not work.

          So an election between Boris and Corbyn. The Conservatives will want to wait till the new boundaries are in place, which are likely to favour the Conservatives, but in the current mood perhaps not. And in any event they may not have the right to wait if they have lost such an important vote.

          More likely than not Corbyn wins. After all by then the Conservatives will have been in power for 9 years, and since 2015 in a pretty chaotic way.

          • weka 5.1.1.1.1

            But there will still need to be legislation to implement the exit, which will not pass. Tory rebels will vote against.

            That means a new election, sometime in April/May 2019.

            Do you mean that post-failure of Brexit legislation a vote of no confidence will be called and some Tories will vote no confidence in their own party?

          • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.1.1.2

            That means a new election, sometime in April/May 2019.

            There are serious issues with the notional Tory/DUP coalition. The new election may come far sooner than that.

          • dukeofurl 5.1.1.1.3

            “It is almost certain that the British will not be able to agree on what type of Brexit they want.”
            The conservatives still hold the reins, the DUP isnt that far away from them

            The EU is the stumbling block as its they who want a ‘hard agreement’, to discourage the others.

            In those circumstances your initial negotiating position is nothing to do with a normal ‘good faith’ type of discussions.
            You counter the EU hardline position with your own, and that means not giving away anything before hand

            Do you think Germany will want to see 20% of its car production, which goes to UK put in jeopardy, or the million plus EU citizens in UK put in an untenable situation. ?

          • dukeofurl 5.1.1.1.4

            “Labour supports Brexit, though who knows in what form.”

            read their manifesto. They differ from the Torys, but of course under the Westminister system they are highly unlikely to be asked during negotiations.

            “But there will still need to be legislation to implement the exit, which will not pass. Tory rebels will vote against.”

            Really ? Its labour policy to support Brexit and theres are largish group of strong Brexiteers in labour. Remember the 500 votes to trigger the exit process !
            Doesnt sound like there is much support to stop Brexit.

        • dukeofurl 5.1.1.2

          UK parliament has done its ‘little bit’ last time
          The civil servants are like those here, they take their directions from Ministers only. Other Mps are held in distain.
          Conservatives are for Brexit, DUP is for Brexit, labour is for Brexit. What more do you need ( its in their manifestos!)

      • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.2

        This won’t happen

        If you say so…

        …the president considers that the real political negotiations on Article 50 with the United Kingdom will start after the elections foreseen for the 8th of June…

        • dukeofurl 5.1.2.1

          It just says negotiations between civil servants begin fairly soon and go on for some time !

          Both sides wont be negotiating through the headlines , in-spite of what you read ( Independent has a very strong Remain pro EU policy, so they arent giving you an impartial view )

          Did we know the details of the TPP while it was underway ?

      • mikesh 5.1.3

        Once Article 50 has been triggered, and this has already happened, I would assume that a second referendum would be ineffectual.

        • dukeofurl 5.1.3.1

          What second referendum ? the only parties promising that were Lib Dems and Greens. Do you know how many Mps they got?

          Wistful thinking !

          The Supreme Cort ruled they had to have a vote in the Commons to trigger article 50, that was passed by nearly 500 votes ( out of almost 650Mps)

  6. tc 6

    Quite a pickle the tories arrogance has created here.

    Brexit Boris and Majority May surrounded by those ‘quality people’ you often hear about but rarely from.

  7. dukeofurl 7

    The DUP wont be a coalition, it will be something we are familiar with . Confidence and Supply.

    As the DUP people elected in North Ireland are different to those in Westminster ( plus its 10 Mps not 8 as weka has said, that was last election)
    Cant see how its some sort of breach of the NI power sharing agreements. Which have lapsed for years in the past as well.

    [thanks, corrected now – weka]

    • weka 7.1

      It’s pretty clearly explained in at least 3 links in the post.

      I’ve seen reports of ‘coalition’, but you are right it doesn’t have to be. Technically they don’t even need a C and S agreement. The media still don’t seem to be being very accurate with their language. It happens here too, which is not helpful.

    • dukeofurl 7.2

      I think the Sinn Fein Mps in both Belfast and Dublin sit as Sinn Fein. They changed their policy from that which previously occurred.
      But its one of their core beliefs , as Gerry Adams once put it

      “”There are lots of things which there can be no certainty of and there are some things of which we can be certain,” Mr Adams said. “There will never, ever be Sinn Fein MPs sitting in the British Houses of Parliament.

  8. weka 8

    Survation.‏ @Survation

    Public say PM Should resign post election by 49-38%
    Labour polling 5% ahead of Conservatives
    Survation for MOS:
    http://mailchi.mp/survation/post-election-poll-for-the-mail-on-sunday-1118541

    Britain Elects‏ @britainelects 32m32 minutes ago

    Westminster voting intention:

    LAB: 45% (+5)
    CON: 39% (-3)
    LDEM: 7% (-)
    UKIP: 3% (+1)

    (via @Survation / 10 Jun)
    Chgs. w/ GE2017

    • dukeofurl 8.1

      Which means what ?
      They just had an election. Thats how it works.

      Its the 650 people in westminster whos votes count . No one else, let alone a tweet.

      The DUP isnt going the wind back the clock in UK – they have it nicely enough in NI, plus any C& S doesnt commit them to any general Tory policies

      • weka 8.1.1

        They just had an election with a result that is unclear.

        The tweet is of a poll (for what that’s worth). You seem to be assuming that the Tories will form govt and be stable for five years. Lots of people are suggesting that that’s not necessarily true, so polls showing voting intentions is still relevant.

        Plus the whole rise of Corbyn/Labour thing, it’s interesting.

        • dukeofurl 8.1.1.1

          The result IS clear. Its a small majority for Conservative with support of DUP. the Westminister method doesnt require 50% +1 of votes , just Mps

          Was a similar situation with Major not that long ago, except it was UUP then. he lasted 5 years

          “John Major formed the Second Major ministry following the 1992 general election. His government fell into minority status on 13 December 1996.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Major_ministry

          • weka 8.1.1.1.1

            Yes, I understand that. But government isn’t about the MP vote alone, it’s also about perceptions of competency and people feeling confident. Everyone understands the basic maths, that’s not what’s being discussed here.

            • dukeofurl 8.1.1.1.1.1

              We have never had a national party majority from elections in the last 9 years here.
              Do you think that the public were ‘not clear’ and there was ‘no confidence’ ‘for them running the country ?

              The numbers are all that matters. It really is . Plus its the UK, why would anyone here lie awake at night.

            • Poission 8.1.1.1.1.2

              The basic maths ie gains and losses in seats by conservatives and labour are counterintuitive (ie inverse to expectations)

              While deepening education divides pull Labour-voting graduates and Conservative-voting school-leavers ever further apart, the traditional class divides that have structured politics in Britain for generations seem to have been inverted this year.

              Labour, founded as the party of the working class, and focused on redistributing resources from the rich to the poor, gained the most ground in 2017 in seats with the largest concentrations of middle-class professionals and the rich. The Conservatives, long the party of capital and the middle class, made their largest gains in the poorest seats of England and Wales. Even more remarkably, after years of austerity, the Conservatives’ advance on 2015 was largest in the seats where average incomes fell most over the past five years, while the party gained no ground at all in the seats where average incomes rose most.

              https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/11/new-electoral-map-for-britain-revenge-of-remainers-to-upending-class-politics

  9. greywarshark 9

    This is riveting stuff. No-one should be taking any interest in television fiction in
    present times anyway, not with the fantastic facts turning up. But sure, truth is stranger than fiction.

    Reading this post and the comments with the knowledge and information level that appears so high, I feel that I am watching a chess play being described by those at their peak.

    The complexities revealed, dissected, grilled, turned over and grilled on the other side; the hands-on banquet matches in drama that from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

    And we are connected to all that happens. The shipwreck of the pirate ship Britannica would likely sail off like the Crimson Assurance and then wash up on our shores. If that happened it might have deteriorated to the level of the old hulks used for hapless convicts once sent down-under. We urgently want to halt Britannica’s voyage and sinking while crewed by its politicians and the degraded moneyed classes that back them, so go Jeremy and your followers, win this one against the forces of evil.

  10. mickysavage 10

    Outstanding post Weka.

    I have followed the sectarian divide for a long time and you have managed to capture many nuances in your post. This will not end well for the Conservatives. I suspect that May is toast and I’m not sure what happens next.

    • dukeofurl 10.1

      She could do what Corbyn did and restand for election?

      Remember their election process isnt like NZ national.

      This was after Cameron resigned.

      “Conservative MPs voted initially in a series of ballots to determine which two candidates’ names would go forward to a nationwide ballot of Conservative Party members, who would make the final decision. ”

      Eventually all the contenders dropped out so they didnt have a membership election.

      Although the final two would still be decided like the old days , at The Carlton Club.

    • weka 10.2

      Thanks micky, most of it’s new to me so I appreciate the feedback.

  11. greywarshark 11

    For anyone following this great post delving (with a spade) into the rich compost of UK politics (just throwing this in for Robert G’s interest), I am putting a link to a thorough-going comment by Bill that is a good follow-up to UK and Brexit study.

    It has been put up in current Open Mike today 12/6 by Bill who says its for geeks, but all could find something of interest to look into as there is a rich choice of links.

    Open Mike 12/06/2017

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