The Ghost of Ireland Past
This week RTE backed down to demands that they remove a supposedly blasphemous comedy sketch from their online player. The sketch, by Waterford Whispers News, portrayed the Biblical God character going free after being arrested for impregnating Mary.
This story is a valid topic for satire. In Irish schools, the Catholic Church teaches six-year-old infants that Mary was a child in her bedroom, that she was confused, afraid, and did not understand what was going on, but she said yes anyway to a stranger.
RTE at first defended its broadcast, apologised for any offence caused, but kept the clip online. It then reversed that decision, and reported itself to the BAI for undue offence. But how can RTE protect 150+ Irish religions from undue offence in its comedy output?
This decision reflects the ghost of Ireland past. We have since removed our blasphemy laws. Religious ideas are now as open to satire and ridicule as are secular ideas. Atheist Ireland will continue to lobby against the censorship of blasphemy by another name.
– Secular Sunday Editorial Team
Chun ár gcuid feachtais a leathnú agus a neartú, tá sé beartaithe ag Éire Aindiach níos mó úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge.
Ba mhaith linn meitheal a eagrú, chun cuidiú le:
- Polasaithe agus feachtais Éire Aindiach a phlé ar an raidió nó ar an teilifís
- Cuidiú le doiciméid ghaeilge a scríobh
- Bualadh le polaiteoirí chun stocaireacht a dhéanamh
Táimid i mbun aistriúcháin a dhéanamh ar dhoiciméid polasaí faoi láthair, agus teastaíonn cabhair uainn le aistriúchán agus profáil. Más maith leat bheith páirteach san iarracht seo, cur ríomhphost chugainn ag firstname.lastname@example.org.
To broaden and strengthen our campaigns, Atheist Ireland have undertaken to make more use of the Irish language.
We are looking to assemble a group of volunteers, to help with:
- Discussing our policies and campaigns on radio or tv
- Helping to write documents in Irish
- Meeting with politicians to lobby them
We are in the process of translating policy documents at the moment, and we need some help with translating and proofreading. If you would like to assist with this effort, please email us at email@example.com.
Atheist Ireland News
Forcing respect for 160+ beliefs is impractical, and undermines freedom of expression
The right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief is one of the foundations of a democratic society. We have listed in this article over 150 religions that are recognised in Ireland, and ten nonreligious philosophical convictions that Human Rights law gives the same status as religious beliefs.
Many people, especially in Ireland, only recognise the right to freedom of religion. The right to freedom of conscience and nonreligious belief are not given the same protection, and consequently there are issues around the protection of the right to freedom of expression and what it encompasses.
People with nonreligious beliefs have exactly the same rights as those with religious beliefs. They have the same right to express their beliefs and through satire if they wish.
The Council of Europe in its Handbook of Freedom of expression stated that:
“The right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief is connected with the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly. If you have a religion or belief then you have the right to express it and the right to freedom of assembly.”
RTE Guidelines oblige its programmers to respect beliefs. This does not set a fair balance between the competing interests of the individual who complains and of the community as a whole.
Given Irish history and culture, the obligation to respect religious beliefs comes from a time when Church and state were inseparable, and religious beliefs were reflected in our Constitution, laws and policy. They still are in many respects, especially in our education system.
Religious beliefs and political beliefs
The requirement to respect certain religious beliefs has political consequences. Religions seek to influence law and policy to ensure that their particular deeply held convictions are reflected in law and policy for everyone, even if you do not belong to that particular religion.
Political beliefs such as support for capitalism, socialism or nationalism are deeply held convictions held by many people. But RTE does not seek to ensure that political satire does not cause offence. Everyone can understand how such a policy would undermine freedom of expression.
There is no right for anyone not to be offended, even if such criticism may be perceived by some as hurting their religious feelings. Satire is given special protection by the European Court.
RTE should not have guidelines that require programmers to respect beliefs, as this undermines freedom of conscience and expression. It is impossible for any organisation to equally respect every belief in the country.
All beliefs should be challenged, and especially if they are harmful. Many aspects of Irish culture reflected Catholic Church teaching and were and are harmful to certain sections of society. Read more…
KFM – Listen: Atheist Ireland Says Satirical Bulletin, Portraying Jesus Christ As A Rapist Should Remain On RTE Website.
NEWSTALK – RTE Blasphemous Sketch – Inappropriate Or An Overreaction?
Irish constitution gives parents more rights than human rights laws do
Irish parents have more rights in relation to the education of their children under the Irish Constitution than they have under human rights law.
The United Nations and the Council of Europe constantly raise the issue of the failure of the Irish State to protect the human rights of minorities in the education system to freedom of conscience, equality before the law, freedom from discrimination, and an effective remedy.
Article 42.1 of the Irish Constitution reflects Catholic teaching on the right and duty of parents in relation to the education of their children. The rights of parents under the Irish Constitution are absolute.
The High Court in the Campaign to Separate Church and State case in 1996 recognised that parents had more rights under the Irish Constitution than under human rights law. It said:
“The parties to the First Protocol of the European Convention for the Protection of human rights and Fundamental Freedoms agreed that States when assuming functions in relation to education “shall respect the rights of parents to ensure such education and teaching in accordance with their own religious and philosophical convictions” (Article 2). The Irish Constitution has developed the significance of these parental rights and in addition has imposed obligations on the State in relation to them. It declares (in sub paragraph 2 of this Article) that parents are to be free to provide for the education of their children in their homes, or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State, that the State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience to send their children to schools established or designated by the Stare, and that the State shall require (in view of actual conditions) that children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social…”
The influence of the Catholic Church on the Irish Constitution is reflected in the wording of Article 42.1 of the Constitution, it states that:
“The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.”
Canon law 793-4 also speaks about the right and duty of parents in relation to the education of their children. It states that:
“Can. 793 §1. Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances.
§2. Parents also have the right to that assistance, to be furnished by civil society, which they need to secure the Catholic education of their children.
Can. 794 §1. The duty and right of educating belongs in a special way to the Church, to which has been divinely entrusted the mission of assisting persons so that they are able to reach the fullness of the Christian life.”
The Irish Constitution protects the rights of all parents, and not just Catholic parents, as the wording of Article 42.1 is not confined to Catholic parents. Unfortunately, because Catholics have been in the majority, the rights of minority religious and non-religious parents are ignored by successive governments. Read more…
There is no right to not be offended, and it’s okay to challenge not respect beliefs
RTE, the National Broadcaster, has apologised for any offence that may have been caused by a Waterford Whispers News sketch on New Year’s Eve Countdown show. The Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin had complained that the item was offensive and blasphemous. Atheist Ireland has written about this issue and you can find that here.
There is no right to not be offended
The Venice Commission has said that it must be possible to criticise religious ideas, even if such criticism may be perceived by some as hurting their religious feelings.
The Council of Europe in its Handbook of Freedom of expression stated that:
“Satirical expression has also been granted special protection by the Court. Satire is a form of artistic expression and social commentary and, due to its inherent features of exaggeration and distortion of reality, naturally aims to provoke and agitate. Any interference with an artist’s right to such expression must be examined with particular care.”
There are over 126 different religions in Ireland. This means that RTE will have to apologise if members of any of these religions find something offensive in what they broadcast. That is an awful lot of apologising on the horizon for RTE, given the fact that many religious people believe that they have a right not to be offended.
Some of those beliefs undermine the rights of others and are not based on the dignity of the human person. Beliefs can be based on religious beliefs or philosophical convictions.
As RTE has apologised for causing offense to some Catholics, then there is no reason why they should not apologise if a sketch was focused on the teachings of Creationism or Scientology.
This is the position that RTE has placed itself. They can’t have a policy of just apologising to the religious majority if they offend them. They must apologise to every religion and belief in the country if their members find something offensive and complain.
State policy to respect beliefs
It is not surprising that the State Broadcaster apologised as it is the policy of the State to respect beliefs.
In schools, children are taught to respect beliefs and the codes of conduct in relation to those beliefs. This applies not only to courses developed by religious Patron bodies but also religion courses developed by the Irish State.
The Goodness Me Goodness You course in community National Schools teaches children to respect beliefs and codes of conduct in relation to those beliefs. The second level Religious Education course developed by the NCCA also teaches students to respect beliefs.
Many of these religious beliefs undermine the rights of others, particularly women and LGBT people.
Most Atheist Parents teach their children to challenge beliefs that are harmful. The state has a policy to teach their children to respect beliefs and the Codes of Conduct in relation to those beliefs. That is indoctrination and undermines freedom of expression.
It is no wonder that many people in Ireland believe that they have a right not to be offended, and that they shouldn’t challenge beliefs even if they feel that they are harmful.
Atheist Ireland will continue to challenge beliefs that undermine the dignity of the human person and that promotes discrimination. We will support the use of satire to challenge beliefs and continue to lobby the state to change its policy on respecting beliefs. Read online…
From 2015, a Submission sent to RTÉ re the Angelus
Atheist Ireland asks RTE to reconsider new Angelus video competition as disrespectful and pre-evangelising
“Pope Francecso I” by JeffyBruno is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
RTE has recently promoted a competition for new video for the Angelus, asking producers for ideas that enable members of all faiths and none to pray or reflect, under the title and chimes of the Angelus, which is a Catholic call to prayer. We recognise that RTE intends well in this, but we have serious concerns about the practical impact.
As a national broadcaster with a public service remit, RTE should not propose that atheists and secularists should pause and reflect during a Catholic call to prayer. This is disrespectful to the philosophic convictions of many citizens, facilitates Catholic pre-evangelisation, and is contrary to Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards.
RTE would not dream of broadcasting a daily prime-time programme that called on atheists to proclaim that there is no God, then respond to criticism from Catholics by telling them they can be ‘included’ by praying during that broadcast. Yet RTE seems unable to see how inappropriate this is in reverse.
Atheist Ireland has sent the following submission to RTE about the Angelus broadcast generally and this new competition, along with some suggestions for a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause for reflection.
- The four things that we are asking RTE to do
- Overview of the basis of Atheist Ireland’s complaints
- Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards
- Positively respect the rights of atheists and secularists
- The chimes of the Angelus are a Catholic call to prayer
- Facilitating the Catholic policy of pre-evangelisation
- How this complaint differs from the 2009 BCC judgment
- Atheist Ireland’s 2011 correspondence with RTE
- Please reconsider the current video competition
- Suggestions for a genuinely inclusive pause to reflect
1. The four things that we are asking RTE to do
- Stop broadcasting at prime-time the Angelus, which is a Catholic call to prayer.
- Stop trying to ‘include’ atheists and secularists under a Catholic call to prayer.
- Please postpone and reconsider the current Angelus video competition.
- Broadcast a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause for reflection.
1.1 Stop broadcasting at prime-time the Angelus, which is a Catholic call to prayer
RTE has a public service remit that obliges it to show no editorial or programming bias in terms of religion. The daily prime-time prominence given to the Angelus shows bias for religious beliefs over nonreligious philosophical beliefs, and for Catholicism over other religions.
This is an inappropriate use of prime time public service broadcasting, by a body with a statutory duty to show no editorial or programming bias in terms of religion. This duty to show no bias stands on its own merits, regardless of how many people might support or tolerate such bias.
1.2 Stop trying to ‘include’ atheists and secularists under a Catholic call to prayer
It is discriminatory and disrespectful to the human dignity and philosophical convictions of many atheists and secularists for RTE to suggest that we should pause to reflect on life, under the title and chimes of a Catholic call to prayer that is contrary to our convictions. This is contrary to Principle 5 of the BAI Code of Programme Standards.
The Catholic prayer of the Angelus, including its title and chimes, has a specific religious purpose for Catholics. It is not the role of RTE to reinterpret this into a hybrid of a Catholic call to prayer and a time for people of other faiths and atheists to reflect on life generally. In doing this, RTE is going beyond its public service remit as a religiously neutral public service broadcaster.
Ultimately, whatever it is that RTE broadcasts at this time, it is one or other of two things:
- Either it is the Catholic Angelus, in which case RTE should (a) not broadcast it daily at prime-time, and (b) not suggest that atheists and secularists should pause to reflect during a Catholic call to prayer, as it is disrespectful and facilitates Catholic pre-evangelisation.
- Or else it is not the Catholic Angelus, but a pause for people of all faiths and atheists to reflect, in which case RTE should (a) not name it the Angelus or use the Angelus chimes, and (b) broadcast instead a genuinely inclusive and religiously neutral pause.
1.3 Please postpone and reconsider the current Angelus video competition
We know that RTE means well by seeking to make the Angelus video more inclusive. However, this proposal actually makes things worse, by seeking to institutionalise the ‘inclusion’ of everyone under the umbrella of a call to prayer that is contrary to some of our convictions. Read more…
Is my Family Odd About God Special Offer
**Schools Special Offer**
As Covid continues and schools start back online, Atheist Ireland are offering the book ‘Is my family odd about gods‘ free (excluding postage and packaging). This means that you can get this book for the total price of 10 euro. This offer is aimed at families with school going children, who would like to read this book during their online school term. This offer is limited to one book per family unit and for postage within Ireland only.
Note if you have any problems with placing an order email firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is the description of the book. It features wonderfull illustrations by Eiynah. Read more…
Calling concerned teachers
If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at email@example.com
List of Atheist Ireland Submissions
Buy this book “Is My Family Odd About Gods?”
Have you noticed that your school and your teachers may tell you one thing about religion, while some of your friends and family may have different ideas about god?
If you think that this is a little odd, then this book is for you. Buy this book here.
Lessons about Atheism
Atheist Ireland has published a set of free lesson plans about atheism for children aged 8 and up. We welcome feedback, which we will use to develop the lessons. You can download the lesson plans here
Be Good without Gods
Atheist Ireland ‘Good Without Gods’ Kiva team members have made loans of $30,500 to 1079 entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here. Before you chose a loan, make sure you do not support religious groups. You can check the loan partner’s social and secular rating here.
Atheist Ireland’s ‘notme.ie‘ is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 1735 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read here.
Petition on Schools Equality PACT
Atheist Ireland currently runs one petition – The Schools Equality PACT. This seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Currently this stands at 4,042 Help us reach it’s target of 5000. Please sign and share this petition if you haven’t already done so. Thank you.
Tell us what you think
Have you any feedback that you would like to give us on the Secular Sunday newsletter. What are we getting right? What could we improve on? Is there something you would like to see included? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland
Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue our campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.
Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged, €10 unwaged/student and €40 for family membership. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:
- You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland.
- You have a say in determining policy and electing officers.
- You can attend members meetings and our AGM.
- You will have access to our members only Facebook group
- Your membership fee will go towards supporting our many campaigns.
You can join Atheist Ireland here.
Thank you for your continued support
Atheist Ireland Committee
#JusticeForZaraKay #JusticeForZara #StandUpForZaraKay
By Faithless Hijabi
Zara Kay, an Australian citizen and founder of Faithless Hijabi, was summoned to the Dar es-Salaam Oysterbay Police Station in Tanzania on 28 December 2020 and held in police custody for 32 hours without a clear indication of charges. Zara is a well-known ex-Muslim and women’s rights activist. Whilst in police custody, Zara was asked about the work of her organisation and why she left Islam. Zara was released on bail and is now to return to the police station with her lawyer on 5 January 2021.. Read more…
Update Number 3: Tanzania – Drop All Charges against Zara Kay
By Council of Ex Muslims UK
Zara Kay, an Australian citizen and founder of Faithless Hijabi, returned to Dar es-Salaam Oysterbay Police station on 5 January. Her lawyer confirmed that she was then transferred to the Immigration Department.According to local sources, she returned once more to the police station on 6 January and is awaiting a court hearing.
From the original three charges against her: social media posts critical of the government (posted in May when Zara was in London, satirically addressing the handling of Covid-19 in Tanzania), use of a SIM card belonging to a family member (a charge which has been used to persecute other high profile cases), and not returning her Tanzanian passport after gaining Australian citizenship, the authorities appear to be focusing on the latter. Tanzanian police chief Simon Sirro informed the press that Zara is now being questioned over her citizenship status only. Read more..
USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr Adopts Ramzan Bibi in Pakistan through the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project
Washington, DC – United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner James W. Carr today announced his adoption of Ramzan Bibi through the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.
On April 30, 2020, Ramzan Bibi, a 55-year-old Ahmadi woman, was detained and accused of making blasphemous remarks during a personal dispute over the return of her charitable donation to a local mosque in Cheleki village in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Bibi was charged under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, an offence that carries the death penalty. She is currently imprisoned at Central Jail Lahore. Read more…
Raise awarness on blasphemy law abuse
One of Atheist Ireland’s members asked us to share the following
Friday 15th at 7pm – Blasphemous Watch Party
Opinion and Media
Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.
Blogs & Opinions
Mother and baby homes: another chapter from dark side of 20th-century Ireland
By Patsy McGarry
It is probable that the most shocking revelations from the report from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission investigation, due to be published next week, are already known to us. In its fifth interim report, published in April 2019, it confirmed that at Tuam “the memorial garden site contains human remains which date from the period of the operation of the Tuam children’s home so it is likely that a large number of the children who died in the Tuam home are buried there”. Read more…
Mother and baby home survivors to receive State apology from Taoiseach
By Harry McGee
Taoiseach Micheál Martin will make a formal State apology to survivors of the mother and baby homes in the Dáil on Wednesday. It will follow the publication of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation Report which is understood to say that 9,000 infants died in those institutions after 1922. Read more…
Why RTE’s ‘blasphemous’ comedy sketch was ethical
By Michael Nugent
In the 1960s Catholic Bishops in Ireland complained about a light-hearted quiz on the Late Late Show, when a woman said that she might not have worn anything on her wedding night. In the 1970s RTE axed the television drama the Spike, after prudes complained that a scene of an art class briefly showed a nude model. Not only has Irish society moved on since then, but we have removed the offence of blasphemy from our Constitution and laws. The Waterford Whispers News sketch on RTE is the first high profile consequence of the blasphemy referendum, and the Catholic Bishops are again flexing their political muscles. Read more…
Atheist Ireland defends mock broadcast depicting God as rapist
By Adam Daly
ATHEIST IRELAND HAS defended RTÉ’s “blasphemous” broadcast of a comedy sketch which depicted God being arrested for rape. The national broadcaster yesterday apologised for any offence that may have been caused by the Waterford Whispers sketch. The clip was broadcast as part of RTÉ One’s NYE Countdown Show on Thursday night and dubbed blasphemous by Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the following day. Read more…
Atheist Ireland: Claims satirical news sketch was ‘blasphemous’ are not valid
By Jack Quann
The head of Atheist Ireland has said claims a satirical news sketch on a New Year’s Eve countdown programme were ‘blasphemous’ are not valid, as a blasphemy law has been removed. It comes after State-broadcaster RTÉ apologised over the December 31st sketch. Read more…
Mother and Baby Homes report to reveal up to 9,000 children died in the institutions
By Paul Hosford
The Taoiseach will make a State apology to survivors of Mother and Baby Homes in the Dáil on Wednesday. Micheál Martin will make the apology after the report on the homes is published on Tuesday following a Cabinet meeting. Read more…
Catholic teaching in decline at Polish schools as church’s influence wanes
By Wojciech Kość
As a growing number of Poles question the role and influence of the church, ever fewer parents are signing their children up for Catholic catechism classes in schools – and many are asking whether public institutions should be financing and hosting such lessons in the first place. Read more…
First global study of apostates’ experiences reveals hidden abuse victims
By Humanists UK
The first study into the worldwide experiences of apostates – individuals who leave coercive or high-control religious groups or cults – within religious households has revealed a widespread culture of abuse hidden within the home, including intra-familial violence, domestic abuse, and honour-based shunning. The study was published last year and more recently has been made open-access. Read more…
Secular “values voters” are becoming an electoral force — just look closely at 2020’s results
By Phil Zuckerman
The voting patterns of religious groups in the U.S. have been scrutinized since the presidential election for evidence of shifting allegiances among the faithful. Many have wondered if a boost in Catholic support was behind Biden’s win or if a dip in support among evangelicals helped doom Trump. Read more…
Germany: Catholic officials ask reporters for ‘silence’ on child abuse report
By DW Reporters
Reporters walked out of a press event in Cologne after church officials asked them to sign a confidentiality agreement. The officials were due to discuss issues around a key report on child abuse. Journalists were asked to keep the contents of the report a “secret” Read more…
Survey shows Congress is more religious than America
By Scotty Hendricks
- The newest survey of congressional religious beliefs shows our representatives aren’t quite like us.
- Members of Congress are much more religious and more Christian than the general population.
- The effects of this disconnect are debatable.
- Read more…
The Death of Political Cartooning—And Why It Matters
By Jack Reilly
Six years ago, on January 7th, 2015, two brothers armed with Kalashnikov rifles assaulted a building on Rue Nicolas-Appert in Paris, where they killed a maintenance man named Frédéric Boisseau and forced their way into the second-floor offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. They asked for four cartoonists, by name, and executed each of them. They also killed four other journalists, a bodyguard assigned to protect one of the cartoonists in the event of just such an attack, police officer Ahmed Merabet, and a friend of one of the cartoonists. Following a nihilistic two-day crime spree, the brothers were killed in a hail of police bullets outside a printworks north-east of Paris. Read more…
UK and Irish broadcasters castigated for mocking Christianity
By Barry Duke
THE BBC has been called ‘a disgusting corporation of pigs’ and Ireland’s RTÉ has been forced to apologise for a New Year’s Eve show that included a satirical report about God being implicated in a sexual harassment case. First, the BBC’s The Goes Wrong Show Christmas Special which featured the Angel Gabriel supernaturally impregnating the Virgin Mary: Read more…
Law Commission proposals risk chilling free speech, NSS warns
By the National Secular Society
The National Secular Society has warned that Law Commission proposals on hate crime and communications offences in England and Wales could have a chilling effect on free speech.
The NSS said changes to the law on ‘stirring up hatred’ and communications risked restricting freedom of expression on religion in response to consultations from the commission on the proposals. Read more…
Mubarak Bala announced as recipient of Gordon Ross Humanist of the Year award
By Humanists International
On 8 January 2021, Humanist Society Scotland announced the recipient of its annual Gordon Ross Humanist of the Year prize: Nigerian humanist and President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala. Humanist Society Scotland’s annual award recognises individuals whose efforts to promote Humanism and its values are exceptional; Mubarak Bala’s efforts to promote Humanism in Nigeria have cost him his liberty. To announce the award, the organization released the following statement. Read more…
Freethought Lebanon and SOCH Nepal submit human rights reports to UN OHCHR
By Humanists International
Last year, Freethought Lebanon and SOCH Nepal, with the assistance of Humanists International, submitted written reports on human rights issues to the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR).As part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, the submissions will provide essential, often firsthand facts to support the review of Lebanon and Nepal’s human rights framework. Read more…
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