July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Discussion between ‘Blanketmanh3’ and “Rusty Nail”

Discussion at Slugger O’Toole website between Danny Morrison (‘blanketmanh3’) and Rusty Nail.

Comment 14, page 2 of discussion:

Surely Richard O’Rawe and Brendan McFarlane couldn’t have called off the hunger strike without asking the hunger strikers? If the republican leadership on the outside rejected what Richard O’Rawe alleges as his and McFarlane’s acceptance, then what happened to the ICJP mediation efforts? Why didn’t the British deal through them which one would presume would be their preferred choice so as not to give any kudos tothe Provos?
This is what Richard O’Rawe actually wrote on the day that Joe McDonnell died: “The British government’s hypocrisy and their refusal to act in a responsible manner are completely to blame for the death of Joe McDonnell. The only definite response forthcoming from the British government is the death of Joe McDonnell. This morning Mr Atkins has issued us with yet another ambiguous and self-gratifying statement. That statement, even given its most optimistic reading, is far removed from our July 4 statement. At face value it amounts to nothing.”
This is what prisons minister Michael Allison said after Joe McDonnell died about the ICJP:he blamed the breakdown on the ICJP’s “over-eagerness” and said they had misrepresented what he had said, inflating his “privately expressed sentiments” to suggest that a solution was near. Its proposals to HMG were “wildly euphoric and wildly out of perspective.” He compared talking to hunger strikers as like talking to hijackers: “you continued talking while you figured out a way to defeat them, while allowing them to save face.”
Primary and contemporary sources. You mightn’t like them but they’re usually the best!

Posted by blanketmanH3 on May 27, 2009 @ 11:36 AM

Comment 23 & 24:

@blanketmanH3: You wrote:

Primary and contemporary sources. You mightn’t like them but they’re usually the best!

I agree 100%, which makes it more of a shame that Adams, Morrison and McFarlane are presumably in hiding and found wanting, or worse, outright lying, when it comes to straight answers to the hard questions about this issue.

Saturday’s debate was important in regards to this; its significance cannot be overstated. Adams, Morrison and McFarlane’s absence spoke volumes. In their place, other primary and contemporary sources were able to shed a huge amount of light on the time frame in question.

Just to make clear once more as some readers seem to not be grasping things:

Primary Source: Brendan Duddy, the Mountain Climber link between the British government – Thatcher – and the IRA as represented by the Adams committee. He confirmed the NIO document, another primary source, of the British offer as that which he conveyed to the Adams committee in early July. He confirmed the response given to him from the Adams committee was to reject the offer. He had no knowledge of the prison leadership’s acceptance of the offer, nor did he approach the IRSP or INLA to inform them of the negotiations or offer.

Primary source: Richard O’Rawe, PRO of the prison leadership during the hunger strikes.

Primary source: Gerard Hodgins, hunger striker. He had no knowledge of the offer or acceptance – the same as other hunger strikers who were not told of the state of play when and while they went on hunger strike.

Primary source: Gerard Clarke, who occupied a cell next to O’Rawe and overheard the conversation between O’Rawe and McFarlane in which they discussed the offer and agreed to accept it. He confirmed that the offer outlined in the NIO document was the substance of what he heard being discussed.

Primary source: Tommy McCourt, IRSP representative at the time of the hunger strikes, who had no knowledge whatsoever of the Mountain Climber negotiations, no knowledge of the July offer, no knowledge of the July acceptance. Other IRSP and INLA figures at the time also were kept completely in the dark. Their comrades died on hunger strike without knowing the full picture of what was being done in their name.

Primary Source: The NIO documents released under the Freedom of Information requests that document the British end of negotiations; these show a continuity of thinking that is borne out by what eventually happened at the end of the hunger strike: what the prisoners got was what the British were proposing all along.

Primary source: other Blanketmen who were in the prison at the time who were able to confirm the thinking in the prison, the sentiment and sceal that supported what the other evidence corroborated.

And this is just what came out at the meeting on Saturday. Prior to the meeting, other primary sources have come forward – such as Kevin McQuillan, who was able to refute conclusively Danny Morrison’s suggestion on Radio Foyle that he had told McQuillan about the negotiations – that have fatally undermined the ‘packaged narrative’ when all added together. The pieces of the puzzle do not fit the Morrison narrative of events, no matter how hard he tries to continue to push them together. The picture is emerging clearer as they find their natural fit elsewhere.

And that picture is that the outside leadership prolonged the hunger strike for their own reasons.

What those reasons were is at the moment a matter of speculation. But if it were to save hunger strikers, by holding out for a ‘better offer’, it did not accomplish that. On the contrary, it led to the death of six of them.

And the prisoners ended up with the same was on offer in July.

To your point about the ICJP. It is funny you quoting Biting at the Grave, because if you merely turned back a few pages the answer to your question – “what happened to the ICJP mediation efforts?” is answered: The Provos did everything in their power to scupper the ICJP efforts. This is not alone documented in Biting at the Grave but a number of other books and interviews about the hunger strikes. Interested readers, however, can go directly to pages 94-98 of Biting at the Grave and will see the both the full story and the sleight of hand you are attempting with your disingenious comment. If you were a blanketman on H3 you would likely know the answer to your questions already.

The O’Rawe statement you refer to is his PRO statement – the public face, propaganda, and is to be read as such, not as any indication of what the private position was. If you want the primary source for O’Rawe’s thinking, and what was going on inside the prison on the day, you would do well to go to his book and look at pages 181-183 for details on Adams “trying to get the ICJP to throw in the towel” because “the commission was […] undermining matters” in its pursual of a deal alongside the Adams committee’s pursuit of the Mountain Climber deal.

You will then also want to look at page 193 regarding the PRO statement you ask about. O’Rawe says, “The day after Joe McDonnell died, I issued a statement, as requested by the Army Council, condeming the commission for letting the British government influence them.” So what you say O’Rawe wrote then was merely O’Rawe following Adams’ instructions and putting out a statement that reflected what Adams wanted said.

Primary and contemporary sources, great things altogether.

Posted by Rusty Nail on May 27, 2009 @ 01:54 PM

Comment 2, page 3 of discussion:

You quote only what suits you. Brendan Duddy was interviewed in theBelfast telegraph last week and he said that “Nothing was ever communicated on paper to the IRA.” He also said that he agreed with what Sile Darragh had said in a letter to the Irish News. For those of you who didn’t know it, Sile Darragh was OC of the prisoners in Armagh in 1981. In her letter to the Irish News, which Duddy said “Sile Darragh got it spot on,” , Sile said, “Richard didn’t speak to the hunger strikers, didn’t visit the prison hospital or meet with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace. This whole matter will be put to rest when he grasps the difference between an offer and a deal (which the British refused to stand over).”
That’s what Duddy says, in black and white, he agrees with so go argue with him.
I would like to know Rusty nail how you explain the hunger strikers continuing to hunger strike, as if none of them asked whatever happened to the offer??? Well?
You quote Gerard Clarke as a primary source overhearing the conversation with Bik and Rickie. Rickie in his book says the conversation was in Irish. Gerard Clarke can’t speak Irish. Go asked him! If he can he must have learnt it last week.

Posted by blanketmanH3 on May 27, 2009 @ 02:36 PM

Comment 5:

Brian Rowan’s article, already discussed here on Slugger when it was published, about Brendan Duddy of last week was totally eclipsed and rendered irrelevant by what Duddy himself had to say to a room full of former blanketmen, ex-prisoners, relatives and other republicans activists of all stripes on Saturday evening in Derry. Did you attend the meeting yourself? It was a very powerful night. What Brendan Duddy had to say that night was so important it completely blew the Rowan piece out of the water and rendered it a mere footnote, if not an irrelevance of little substance.

You suggest I go argue with him myself. Well, given that I attended Saturday’s meeting and heard what he had to say for himself directly, and heard him forthrightly answer very difficult questions put to him, does that count? In fact, the man rather to his credit bravely faced a lot of misdirected anger cast his way because of the absence of the people who should have been there to answer questions about exactly what they did during the hunger strike and why. He took the anger and hurt that has been pent up over years and meant for others who had not the stones to face up to the consequences of their actions.

But that is neither here nor there. The Rowan article is lightweight, fluff in comparison to Duddy’s own testimony on Saturday. I don’t need to go argue with him, I went to hear him speak when the opportunity presented itself. I made the effort because it was important to do so.

As for Gerard Clarke. You sign yourself as a blanketman from H3 yet you don’t remember the amount of Irish you would have absorbed just from being there. A silly point. Listen to the man himself explain what he heard – watch the video. And while you watch it, and think you can win this by sneering at him, keep in mind, he is not the only prisoner on the wing who heard the conversation. Go back to this thread on Slugger and read the transcript of Willie Gallagher’s speech, where he quotes from a recording the IRSP has heard. And then tell yourself, if there’s two people, there will be more. Because if you tell yourself that doesn’t prove anything, you will be sadly mistaken as others come forward.

It is time for people to stop the lies. Throw the hands up. If it was an honest mistake, which is completely understandable, for heaven’s sake, admit to it!

Circles is right. It is time now for honest answers as to why. It is absolutely nonsensical and only doing more damage to people’s reputations to keep continuing the absurd denials. Acknowledge the truth, and explain what really happened.

Is it as simple as what the anonymous source in the same Rowan piece you are enamoured of says? That the Adams committee looked down on the prisoners, saw them as naive, inexperienced, incapable of making a decision and so made it for them? Were they so full of some egotistical sense of their own importance that they didn’t even care? They just assumed they knew better than the prisoners what they could live with?

People are human, they come with a lot of frailties and faults. It is more forgivable to say, “I was young and full of myself, it was an intense, pressure filled time, I lost the run of things, and the people around me had other intentions I wasn’t then fully aware of, I am sorry. I meant no harm, I truly believed then I was doing the right thing” than to cling onto a lie that gets shredded more and more with each passing day, and expect people to continue to believe it, and continue to have any respect for you for doing so. Your frailties begin to seem monstrous instead of human in that light, and become more impossible to forgive.

Great hurt, suffering and betrayals have been perpetrated on the Republican community – nevermind the wider community – by their leaders during the troubles. By honestly taking responsibility for their actions and sincerely acknowledging the damage that they have done to their people and their cause, there is a chance to mitigate some of the disaster history will bestow on them as time moves on and more of the truth about who did what when to whom comes to light. And it will.

Depressingly, however, going on past form from those leaders, I do not expect that to happen. We will continue to be treated with more and more contempt and history will later look upon those men as pure evil.
Posted by Rusty Nail on May 27, 2009 @ 03:36 PM

Comment 10, page 3 of comments:Rusy Nail you didn’t answer my question. I would like you to explain the hunger strikers continuing to hunger strike, as if none of them asked whatever happened to the offer??? Well?
The INLA has said that Bangers Morrison didn’t tell Micky Devine and Kevin Lynch about the offer. What is your position onwho is telling lies there, giventhat Bangers has a Freeodom of Information document showing that he met ALL of the hunger strikers on 5th July?

Posted by blanketmanH3 on May 27, 2009 @ 06:26 PM

Comment 13 & 14:


Let us turn again to primary sources. First of all, to say that “none of them asked whatever happened to the offer” is patently untrue and a very misleading question. It smacks of a desperate grasping at straws. Surely a blanketman wouldn’t have to ask this sort of question? Never you worry; I am happy to answer.

In the first place, as shown in Biting at the Grave on page 96, which has been quoted on Slugger before in reference to Danny Morrison’s claims:

“According to Jake Jackson, the only people he could say knew for sure about the Mountain Climber initiative at that point were himself, McFarlane, block OCs Pat McGeown and Sid Walsh, and the PRO Richard O’Rawe and the hunger striker Joe McDonnell. As for the rest, he says, it would have been on “a need-to-know basis”: the closer a hunger striker was to dying the more likely he was to know. Mickey Devine and Kevin Lynch, the INLA members, wouldn’t have been informed, one way or the other, nor would the hunger strikers who were still on the blocks.”

Just because Morrison met all the hunger strikers on the 5th of the July does not mean he told them anything, in terms of the information being discussed here. No one is questioning that Morrison was in to see the hunger strikers on the day. So the faux outrage you are expressing is for naught.

O’Malley, again in Biting at the Grave, page 96, says: “…Danny Morrison was allowed to go into the Maze/Long Kesh to see the hunger strikers on the morning of 5 July…to apprise them of what was going on, although he did not go into detail. Morrison says that he relayed information about the contact and impressed upon them the fact the ICJP could “make a mess of it, that they could be settling for less than what they had the potential for achieving.”

So, it is not in dispute that Morrison went into the prison and spoke with the hunger strikers. Judging from O’Malley’s account, he did not go into any detail – which would lead one to conclude he said there was contact with the British and not to trust the ICJP, given the quote from Morrison himself. Put together with all the other accounts, Morrison told the hunger strikers nothing of substance, only enough to keep them in line with the agenda being pursued by Adams. This would also be in keeping with the Provos doing everything they could to scupper the ICJP deal, as detailed earlier in this discussion.

O’Malley’s account of Morrison’s discussion with the hunger strikers is also corroborated in Holland & McDonald’s INLA: Deadly Divisions, page 179:

“The Provisionals not only lacked the will to co-operate on a united front basis but the IRSP suspected them of being engaged in secret negotiations with the British. Shortly before Joe McDonnell’s death, Councillor Flynn received a telephone call from a man in the Northern Ireland Office, who told him to go to Long Kesh. “There are developments,” was all he said. Even though it was late at night, Flynn went, accompanied by Seamus Ruddy. The NIO official, who refused to give his name, met him, and revealed that there had been discussions between Sinn Fein and the government and that it looked like they might settle. Flynn was given permission to go into the jail and speak to Lynch and Devine, who corroborated the NIO man’s assertion but said that the five demands were not being met, so whatever the Provisionals did, the INLA hunger strikers would not budge. Flynn could not get the official to reveal what was being offered. Later, when he confronted the Provisionals, they denied that they were engaged in any secret talks with the NIO.”

We also have the suggestion from Morrison on Radio Foyle that he told Kevin McQuillan about the deal, which was immediately denied by McQuillian, who said: “This did not happen. If he had of appraised me of such a serious development, my first point of reference would have been to contact the National leadership of the Republican Socialist Movement, in particular those delegated with the struggle within the Blocks. At no point had I cause to. Clearly put…it did not happen.”

In addition, Tommy McCourt at the Saturday meeting heartbreakingly related his last visits with Mickey Devine, and lamented that if he had only knew of the offer, nevermind the prison leadership’s acceptance of such, Mickey would not have died on hunger strike.

As you see, the weight of evidence against Danny Morrison is stacked against him. Other hunger strikers have said they too knew nothing of the offer nor acceptance, which supports what Jake Jackson said, not what Morrison implies. It makes more sense that Morrison went in to put pressure on the hunger strikers to not succumb to the ICJP offer, to let the Army Council, as represented by the Adams committee, handle the ‘contact’ with the British, which was still veiled in secrecy in presentation.

Given Danny Morrison’s track record with the truth, which admittedly is not as terrible as Gerry Adams’, but is still not without its blots, and the weight of primary and contemporary sources not supporting Morrison’s propaganda, if I were to have to state a “position onwho is telling lies there”, the INLA or Bangers? The choice seems to me to be obvious. Sorry, Bangers.

You ask me to explain “the hunger strikers continuing to hunger strike, as if none of them asked whatever happened to the offer???”

Again let us look to a primary source to explain that, in this case, O’Rawe’s Blanketmen.

On page 181, he describes the agreement between himself and McFarlane –

“Well, Rick?” he asked. “I think there’s enough there, Bikso.” “I agree. I’ll write to the outside an’ let them know our thinkin’.”
“I was euphoric: it seemed to me that Bobby, Frank, Raymond and Patsy’s huge sacrifice had broken the British government – something I hadn’t thought possible. No more hunger strikers would have to die for their beliefs. All that was left was for the Army Council to rubber-stamp our acceptance of the deal – a matter that Bik and I both considered would be a formality, given that we appeared to have won four of our five demands.”

If it were correct that the prisoners were always in control, this would be true, wouldn’t it? Bik would have sent the acceptance of the deal out, and the Army Council, as represented by the Adams committee, would then move things forward from there in accordance with the acceptance. This clearly did not happen.

On page 184:

“If we thought the response from the Army Council would be a formality, and that, like us, its members would accept the British offer, we were to be sadly mistaken. On the afternoon of 6 July, a comm came in from the Army Council saying it did not think that the Mountain Climber’s proposals provided the basis for a resolution and that more was needed…The Council was hopeful, though, that the Mountain Climber could be pushed into making further concessions. As usual, the comm had come from Gerry Adams, who had taken on the unenviable role of transmitting the Army Council’s views to the prison leadership.

Bik and I were shattered. The possibility that the Council might reject the proposals never entered into our calculations.”

So there we have the moment when the power shifted from the prison leadership to the Adams committee. Comparing the attitude of the anonymous source in the Brian Rowan piece you like, in which the prisoners are naive, inexperienced and incapable of making a decision, which is why the Adams committee over-ruled their acceptance of the offer, with O’Rawe’s description of the way the prisoners viewed the Army Council, we see a convergence:

“It needs to be understood that Bik and I attributed almost godlike status to the IRA leadership….we believed that their analysis of our opinion was justified because we thought that, tactically, they were far superior to us.(page 185)

As the situation moved beyond our control, it became evident that the real power in the republican movement was asserting its authority.”

It is not true that none of the prison leadership asked the Adams committee about the rejection, the comms were flying from Bik about it; page 187 details some of them. And then Joe McDonnell died, and it became too late to do anything about it: the prisoners, having learned bascially that things were out of their control, kept on with the hunger strike – and would have likely kept going until who knew when – until the families were able to intervene and end it for them.

So between the secrets and lies, half truths and witheld information, is it any wonder the hunger strikers continued on their hunger strike? The majority of them had no knowledge of the offer or acceptance. The prison leadership was following orders they believed had the full weight of the Army Council behind them. And how were they to know otherwise, until now, some 28 years later, when the truth of it all is finally being forced to the surface?
Posted by Rusty Nail on May 27, 2009 @ 08:02 PM

Comment 15, page 4:
Great! So, Carrie Mackers, you now accept that Bangers met Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine along with all the hunger strikers, though you believe he only told them te minimal. So much for your view on how intelligent these men were, who were facing death. They said, so Danny your in to tell us about the weather. Carrie, You have a problem here. Laurence McKeown and Micky Devine were borth brought out of the blocks to go to that meeting. Lorney and Paddy Quinn told me that Bangers told them EVERYTING and that Micky and Kevin were there also. Bangers spoke to Micky’ sister when she visited him on the Monday after her visit and she knew he was in Sunday I think Kevin McGillan brought her to the meetinf on the Falls.
But you still haven’t answered myquestion, which Ricky has never addressed either!
Lets go back to basics.
The devil Bucky beard tells Bik, fuck off, die some more, we need Owen elected. Bik says no problem mate, I’ll get them to die
Heres your problem, Carry,and I hpe that Mick Fealty, or whateve is the name of the guy who runs this site, publishes this promientely. I have been to the Central Library and at first I just assumed, becayese we had no papers and all. everything that you and Ricky said were right about dates.
The Fermanagh and S0uth Tyrone by election which Bucky Beard (who I adore to this day, he is brilliant, let there be no mistake about it when you consider the poor Palesitinians or now the Tamils, and I am not related so somedboyt in the Rock Bar has said who is blanketman! Its Seany Adams …NO!) WAS NOT CALLED UNTIL 29TH JULY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fermanagh and South tyrone was not called until 29th July!!! Check it out. Your argument whics basically lets face it is anti is pt out to dry and I didn’t even know it really until the thingstareed me in the face!

So how could Joe who died on the 8th be sacrificed for that or the others!!!!! Also spoke to the Scull who is the person on the tape. He is raging that thngs that he said about thngs that he only knew little about,that is Richards youphoria, which he definitely witness and which I accept, is being turned into an offer refused.
Get a grip. We were dealing with Thatcher that had let Bobby (MP!) and the three lads die and we were supposed to say okay it s off, A phone call from a Brit in London to MountianClimber in Derry to McGuiness, to Adams to Bangers to the lads and we should say that’s it its sorted, they’ve offered us half a demand our shirts and trousers and that’s what and Header we went through from 76. Go to hell.
By the way spoke to bangers and he emailed the organiser three weeks before the the event thanking him for the invitation but apologising that he couldn’t attend. He was in Austria for his tenth wedding anniversary and then they sayt he refused!!!! Yeh got to hell!!!!

Posted by blankemanH3 on May 28, 2009 @ 10:38 AM

Comment 18:

@“blanketmanH3”: You wrote:

So how could Joe who died on the 8th be sacrificed for that or the others!!!!! Also spoke to the Scull who is the person on the tape. He is raging that thngs that he said about thngs that he only knew little about,that is Richards youphoria, which he definitely witness and which I accept, is being turned into an offer refused.
Get a grip. We were dealing with Thatcher that had let Bobby (MP!) and the three lads die and we were supposed to say okay it s off, A phone call from a Brit in London to MountianClimber in Derry to McGuiness, to Adams to Bangers to the lads and we should say that’s it its sorted, they’ve offered us half a demand our shirts and trousers and that’s what and Header we went through from 76. Go to hell.

At last, we get to the truth. Thank you, Danny Morrison. I have known it was you from the start.

You have just confirmed that Richard’s cellmate did hear the conversation between Richard and Bik; you have accepted that they agreed to accept the offer you relayed to Bik.

You have now given us the reason that your committee rejected the deal, despite the prisoners’ willingness to accept it. You didn’t think it was enough, so you made the decision for them.

The whole idea that it was the prisoners and hunger strikers themselves that were in control of the hunger strike is now complete rubbish. The Adams committee ran this show, no one else. And when the prisoners themselves felt that the offer from the Mountain Climber had enough that they could settle for, and stop their comrades dying, you, Adams, McGuinness, Gibney and Hartley said, No. It is not enough. And you batted it back to them, Joe McDonnell died, and the hunger strike went on until all told, 10 men were dead.

You are hoisted on your own petard in your foolish attempt to be clever and in a fit of pique and anger at getting so thoroughly caught out.

At least you finally, albeit in a despicably sneaky and cowardly way, have admitted to the truth of what happened on the hunger strike in July of 1981.

Thank you for that.

Posted by Rusty Nail on May 28, 2009 @ 11:35 AM

Comment 20:
So, you are Carrie?
But you were not herd during thos e days? Do you have any idea of what it was like? Have you spoken to the families?
Your Number One success – attempting to destroy “We were more than blanketmen. We were brothers.”
Mackers might know who I am. I helped him get a job in (3 or 94.
He is honest, unlikeyou

Posted by blanktetmanH7 on May 28, 2009 @ 12:28 PM

Comment 21:

Did you forget what block you were in on the blanket, Danny? Was it H3 or H7?

The bond between blanketmen will not be destroyed because the truth of what happened in July has emerged. The blanketmen are not at fault for this; they were loyal volunteers who did literally lay their lives down for each other.

An opportunity arose in July 1981 to resolve the hunger strike and prevent further deaths. This is now a matter of record.

The onus is now on the members of the Adams committee to explain why they rejected the offer.

Crying “British duplicity!” and leaving it at that will not be enough. We have just been treated to an awful show of Republican duplicity from those same leaders of that time; people are not so foolish or naive anymore to fall into line like Pavlov’s dog at the uttering of a worn-out cliche.

What was on offer in July, and rejected by your committee, was what the British implemented when the hunger strike came to an end.

Keep on with telling the truth, Danny, hard as it might be. It is far better than to desperately continue to cling to the lies.

Posted by Rusty Nail on May 28, 2009 @ 12:56 PM

Comment 23:
How interesting!
You malign me because of what block I was in?
Are you Carrie, my honest angel? Please answer. Arye you a player?
Why won’t you anwser my questions?
You are out to split the Republican movemenbtand you don’t give a damn.

Posted by blanketmanh5 on May 28, 2009 @ 01:08 PM

Comment 24:

I am not the one who rejected the prisoners wishes and spent the next two decades covering it up.

That would be you.

Posted by Rusty Nail on May 28, 2009 @ 01:12 PM

Comments 1 & 2, page 5:
Are you Carrie Twomey from the USA?

Posted by blanketmanH6 on May 28, 2009 @ 01:36 PM

Danny, you know who I am. I am the rusty nail on which your woolly lies have become unravelled.

Sin é

Posted by Rusty Nail on May 28, 2009 @ 01:52 PM

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole: pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Category: "Rusty Nail", 2009, Commentary, Danny Morrison, Media, Slugger O'Toole

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A day-by-day account of the events of early July, 1981.

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