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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin has submitted the party's proposals on the CAP reform package to the Department of Agriculture and Food. This will be considered by the Department as part of its promised consultation process on the deal that was agreed at Luxembourg in June.

The party's spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD and Assembly Member Gerry McHugh explained that the submission is part of Sinn Féin's ongoing engagement in the debate on CAP reform. They also welcomed the decision by the DUP to send a delegation to Brussels to meet with EU officials on the issue, and pointed out that Sinn Féin had met with members of Commissioner Fischler's cabinet in early summer and had participated fully in the debate long before any other Irish party made any worthwhile contribution.

The text of the Sinn Féin submission reads: 

"Sinn Féin supports the introduction of full decoupling of all EU farm payments. We do so in the belief that this will enable farmers to move away from the current system where production is planned around the receipt of premia and subsidies.

"Once farmers are guaranteed a decoupled single payment they will then be able to plan their production on the basis of demand. This should lead to higher quality and should also have beneficial effects on farm incomes.

"While the reform package has been described as making agriculture more responsive to the market, we believe that the single payment will provide a certain degree of security against the malign effects of an unbridled free market in which most farmers would find it impossible to survive. It is possible in fact that if combined with other mechanisms that the current reform with full decoupling could arrest the current trend whereby thousands of farmers are being forced to leave the sector.

"In support of the reform of CAP, we also advocate the framing of a radical new long-term strategy for Irish farming. A key element of this would be the promotion of higher quality higher value added production and away from the current dependency on the production of cheap bulk products and live exports. This would have massive beneficial effects on our processing industry with extra jobs and improved products for Irish consumers.

"The future of Irish agriculture must also be planned on an all island basis. This must mean that there is closest possible co-operation between the two jurisdictions on the implementation of the reform package.

"We also have to place greater resources into research, to further develop the organic sector and resist the temptation from massive multinational pressure to allow Genetically Modified Organisms on this island. This would contaminate any move to credible organic production, and diminish our ability to export food with safety and quality at its core.

"We are also aware that there are concerns regarding the way in which certain categories of farmer will fare when the decoupled single payment is introduced. This will particularly concern younger farmers, new entrants and dairy farmers. Where current payments or entitlements do not exist or are inadequate we believe that they should be augmented through the national reserve and that the reserve be increased to 5%. We would also favour the establishment of an appeals board comprising, 50% of all the farming organisations, and 50% of the Department to review individual cases".ENDS

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"The British government know exactly what is required to get the process back on track. They need to set a date for elections and they need to get the political institutions back up and running.

"It is perfectly clear that going down the road of undermining the Agreement to support David Trimble is a failed strategy. The peace process and Good Friday Agreement cannot be reduced to an issue of David Trimble's leadership of the UUP.

"The British government know it is wrong to attempt to step outside of the terms of the Agreement when what is required is the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin today announced that the Munster convention to choose the party's candidate for the forthcoming EU election will take place next Saturday, 6th September, in Limerick City and in attendance will be party President Gerry Adams MP.

Those contesting for the position of party candidate for Munster are David Cullinane, Waterford, Councillor Jonathan O'Brien, Cork and Nancy Irwin, Limerick.

Speaking in advance Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"The next twelve months are likely to be dominated by events in Europe as the Irish government prepares to take over the Presidency of the European Union, the possibility of an EU referendum and elections to the European parliament.

"Sinn Féin has already chosen Marylou McDonald to contest the Dublin seat and she is hotly tipped to take a seat. The election convention for Munster will take place next Saturday and in the Six Counties early next week.

"The people contesting the Munster election convention are David Cullinane from Waterford, Cllr Jonathan O'Brien from Cork and Nancy Irwin from Limerick and I would like to wish each of them well.

"With preparations for the European elections well under way Sinn Féin can make real and significant growth. For the first time ever, next June, Sinn Féin has the potential to take several seats in the European election and to send to Europe for the first time ever and all-Ireland team."ENDS

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Commenting on the first anniversary of Hugh Orde‚s appointment as PSNI Chief Constable Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly said that policing 'was not an issue of personalities but an issue of achieving an accountable policing service'.

Mr. Kelly said:

"Sinn Féin is committed to achieving an acceptable Policing service and an acceptable system of Criminal Justice.

"However despite much progress being made in recent years we have not yet reached the Patten threshold. Issues of democratic accountability, particularly the transfer of powers on policing and justice, remain to be resolved.

"The Policing issue is too serious to be reduced to personalities. It is not about who is Chief Constable, it is about the power they hold and the mechanisms required to hold them to account."ENDS

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Commenting on the statement from Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen confirming the success of the passport application scheme in the Six Counties Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty said 'the potential of this service is obvious and it should be extended as quickly as possible.'

"The commencement of the Swiftpost passport application scheme in a limited number of post offices in the Six Counties last March came after a long campaign by Sinn Féin and others. The Minister report, today confirmed that over 6,500 people have availed of this service in the 5 months up to July.

"These figures show that there is a high level of demand in the Six Counties for access to Irish passport services. The potential of this service is obvious and should be immediately extended to all Post Offices in the North.

"The Irish government as a co-equal partner in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement have responsibilities to Irish citizens living in the Six Counties. This involves a range of issues including representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas and services such as access to Irish passports. Some progress has been made in this regard but much work still remains." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality has described Michael McDowell's assertion that he has taken a civil liberties approach to new draft legislation he has announced by extending the time of detention for suspects from 12 hours to 24 hours as a "sick joke". The Dublin South Central TD was responding to Minister McDowell's claim that he was encouraged by an 'expert group' to increase the period of detention to 48 but instead resisted this measure and brought it up to 24 hours.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "The new draft legislation represents another step on McDowell's march to the Right. His latest draconian measure adds to a litany of repressive legislation that he has introduced over the last 12 months to curtail the civil and human rights of groups and individuals. Instead of giving the Gardai wider and more repressive legislation his focus should be on making the Gardai more accountable to the people they serve. Over the last number of years a deep mistrust has developed around the role of the Gardai in a number of very controversial cases. This distrust has not been addressed and will only be exacerbated by the introduction of more draconian laws, which will be open to abuse.

"Minister McDowell's arrogant response, in an interview today after he was criticised by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, that he was taking a civil liberties approach by increasing the time of detention from 12 hours to 24 and not 48 as his so-called 'expert group' had recommended is a sick joke.

"Michael McDowell is as much a civil libertarian as Mary Harney is a supporter of Karl Marx." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, West Belfast representative Cllr Sue Ramsey has welcomed reports that the US has reached agreement with a number of developing countries on the production of pharmaceuticals bypassing current international patent regulations.

Cllr Ramsey said:

"Patents are one of the reasons why people who have HIV from developing worlds lack access to AIDS treatments. Developing countries have been challenged to enforce pharmaceutical patents protecting the treatment of deadly and widespread diseases such as AIDS by counties where the pharmaceutical giants are based, particularly the USA.

"Yet the argument put forward by such countries that the patents system encourages greater innovation do not stand up against the reality that patents inflate the price of medicines and restrict treatments to a minority of wealthy patients.

"The monopoly position of the multi-national pharmaceutical companies and the economic and political pressure applied to developing countries has undermined the ability of developing countries to develop strong treatment regimes.

"The implementation of the TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of International Property Rights) agreement in debt ridden, low income developing countries has not helped the international war on disease. Patent systems have also had far reaching consequences on pricing tariffs. However, evidence suggests that developing countries that have built up ambitious generic programmes to treat their patients appear to fare much better than countries that have been forced to adhere to the demands for patent protection from pharmaceutical companies and the US.

"The detail is yet to emerge of talks between key players in the developing world such as South Africa and India with the USA but any progress must be built upon and sustained." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has expressed concern at the continued increase in homelessness figures and said that it is an indication that the strategy has failed.

Ms Gildernew said:

"There can be no acceptable level of homelessness. The latest figures showing that the number of homeless cases here has risen by 16% are shocking. It is an indictment on the failure of the homelessness strategy to tackle the problem.

"Twelve months ago there were 14,000 homeless applications, these new figures show that since then almost 16,500 people have presented themselves as homeless.

"Significantly intimidation accounts for almost 10% of that figure. Through the six counties Unionist paramilitaries have been waging a campaign of violence and intimidation particularly in mixed area such as Antrim and around interface areas such as North Belfast with the very deliberate objective of creating 'no-go' areas for nationalists by forcing them out of their homes.

"Since the collapse of the institutions and the re-introduction of direct rule organisations dealing with the issue of homelessness have reported a lack of political will make progress on this issue.

"We need more resources to meet the demand for emergency accommodation and support accommodation. However the problem runs far deeper. We need to address the entire housing policy. We need to build more homes and make much better use of existing stock. There are also huge numbers of people on waiting lists classified as A1 priority or in 'stress'.

"It is not enough for good words and paper policy initiatives. To help people avoid homelessness, to bring people out of homelessness and to continue to provide support for people escaping homelessness requires sustained action and political will." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan has welcomed reports that the Criminal Assets Bureau is planning to seize any compensation awarded to Jackson Way Properties as a result of their claim against Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for land at Carrickmines in south county Dublin. The Sinn Féin deputy said, "it is about time the authorities got tough with this particular company and put an end to the blatant banditry that their compensation claim represents."

Deputy Morgan said, "Reports that the CAB intend seizing any compensation awarded to Jackson Way Properties as a result of their Carrickmines compensation claim are to be welcomed. Action like this has been long overdue. It is about time the authorities got tough with this particular company and put an end to the blatant banditry that their compensation claim represents.

"I would call on CAB and the Government to make provisions that if Jackson Way are successful in getting compensation from Dún Laoghaire Rathdown to ensure any monies seized are given straight back to the council for the provision of social and affordable housing.

"Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council already has one of the poorest records in providing housing for its population. It does not need to be further hampered in providing for its people by the sharp and very suspect practices of a shadowy number of greedy tax exiles.

"I would urge Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to fight this compensation claim to the very last. Whether it is through the CAB or the courts Jackson Way Properties must be left in no doubt that they will not now or ever benefit financially from the ownership of this land which was gained in very dubious circumstances." ENDS

Note to editor: In the last five years Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council only built 239 houses while at the same time private developers built in excess of 4000 mostly luxury homes.

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has given a cautious welcome to the recovery of human remains close to the site, which was previously examined in a bid to locate the body of Jean McConville.

Mr. McLaughlin said:

"It is our hope that the recovery of human remains yesterday at Shelling beach, close to the site which was previously examined in a bid to locate the body of Jean McConville, brings closure to the McConville family's long search for their mother's remains.

"At this time we are mindful that the family concerned continue to suffer great hurt and everybody's thoughts will be with them at this difficult time. Their feelings and the feelings of other families in similar situations should be respected by all."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone representative Cllr Gerry McHugh has urged the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to take action on the findings of Rural Development Programme Report.

Mr McHugh said:

"The Price Waterhouse Coopers report into DARD's Rural Development Programme highlights key failures and gives clear recommendations for the current programme. The Assembly Public Accounts Committee has previously reported these failings, but this report highlights serious long-term inadequacies.

"DARD cannot sustain a programme that has no way of measuring the cost per job. Indicators show that 1700 jobs were created at a cost of between £17,000 and £93,000 per job. Yet these jobs were cocktail-funded by IFI and other agencies. There were no original baselines, no outputs or targets were set and there were high delivery costs.

"Yet there were some positive things in this report; a large part of the last programme, which dealt with Capacity Building was particularly important for communities with no infrastructure. It also brought traditional DARD advisors into direct working relationships with farmers.

The ABSAG and LEADER II groups worked effectively with local people coming together to effect collective and collaborative actions.

"However I am seriously concerned that with all of this information at hand, that the assurances given by the last Permanent Secretary, Mr Small, to the Assembly PAC in October 2000, that while the concept of rural development was new that there would be 'a sharper focus in the future than we have had in the past' were nothing more than cheap talk.

"Ian Person also told the select committee in May 2003 that he is in a 'battle' with his officials, yet still £15 million of desperately need PEACE II money will be given back to the EU by DARD later this year.

"The agriculture committee, which I was a member of, reported on the RDP for 2000 - 2006 in 2001. After evidence from many officials and the then Minister Brid Rodgers we produced a report with 32 recommendations that focused on delivery. One the key recommendation (point 5) was for a 'dedicated form completion service for farmers, and this assistance is based in locations familiar to farmers'.

"Sinn Féin have met both the Minister and then the head of the Rural Development Programme. Both appeared to listen to what we said and hopefully both read this PWC report, yet still the problems remain. Farmers and their families are not benefiting from this programme, simply because they cannot access the programme.

"However, the problems go much deeper. DARD have stifled this programme with red tape, working at a snails pace to deliver different measures, some of which closed a year ago.

"Upwards of £35 million in the BSP EU programme has to be spent by the end of 2004. While the Rural Development Division (RDD) is delivering most of this money many of farmers don‚t even know what it does or where its offices are.

"DARD must act now to make money available for Capacity building/facilitation; to implement point 5 of the assembly report; and to implement one of the most key PWC report recommendations for 'real time‚ evaluation to inform ongoing programme delivery.

"DARD must act what they are being told. These people are hiding behind civil service unaccountability. The total lack of action and the attitude of farmers to DARD, who see them as a policing not assisting the farming community, leaves me in no doubt of the need for a major overhaul DARD.

"Either DARD officials begin to listen and act in the interest of the farming and rural community or time is fast approaching for individual civil servants to resign. They are responsible for jeopardising millions of pounds and the failure to spend across the whole of the programme." ENDS

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Commenting on reports of plans to develop a 2000 acre theme park in North Dublin, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. has described the plans as "hair brained" and "worthy of an April fools joke."

Deputy Morgan said, "Developers behind the reported proposed theme park in North Dublin need to come out in the open and state clearly what their plans are. Is this just a Trojan horse to have vast tracts of agricultural land rezoned by Fingal County Council for development?

"The astronomical size of this proposed development (2000 acres), dwarfs the size of Disneyland in Paris which according to their website covers only 56 hectares (138.4 acres).

"Any threat of massive development in North Dublin is deeply worrying. The market gardeners of the area produce 40% of vegetables grown in Ireland. It is incredible that anyone would even consider bulldozing rural communities and villages on the edge of Dublin such as Ballyboughal in order to create an artificial environment with the population and needs of a major town.

"Too many planning mistakes have been made in the past. Dublin has been allowed to sprawl well beyond its natural limits. This development would perpetuate the problem. Even looking at one element of that proposal the question arises, where would the 25,000 employees live? Will they be commuting from distant towns in the midlands and west or will they be added to thousands struggling to find housing in Dublin.

"Such a development, as reported in the media, would be incompatible with the supposed commitment of government to sustainable development. The proposed size of the scheme is just hair-brained in the extreme and worthy of an April fools joke and should be ruled out of order immediately. If developers are serious about building a Theme Park then a realistic plan on an alternative scale needs to be brought forward." ENDS

about building a Theme Park then a realistic plan on an alternative scale needs to be brought forward." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has called on insurance company FBD Holdings to reduce their costs to both motorists and small business' in light of their dramatic increase in profits announced today. Deputy Crowe was responding to a report from FBD that indicated that their profits had risen from €17.32 million last year to €61.77 million for the first six months of this year.

The Dublin South West TD said that "this represents a phenomenal growth of profits in anybody's book and would indicate that the company has much room to manoeuvre in relation to passing on benefits to their customers through reduced premiums."

"The Irish motorist, self-employed people and small business' have over the last number of years been crippled by unjustifiable rising insurance costs. I think these profits show that the insurance industry can well afford to reduce premiums and they must do it immediately." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TDs have called on the Taoiseach to heed the calls by community groups to withdraw plans by FÁS to lay off more than 100 workers on the Government-backed employment scheme, the Jobs Initiative.

As Jobs Initiative workers ended a 24-hour hunger strike at Dublin's GPO today (Wednesday), under the banner of 'Save Our Jobs', Sinn Féins five Dáil deputies said:

"Many of these jobs are with community-based organisations in the Taoiseach's own constituency and he must be aware of the impact these cuts will have not just on the individual Jobs Initiative workers and their families but on their communities and the grassroots services they help to sustain.

"These lay-offs are budget cuts for the sake of seeming to cut budgets with no regard to the social implications on people who want to work and provide services to their communities.

"We call on the Government to rescind the threat hanging over Jobs Initiative workers."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone representative Cllr Gerry McHugh has said that the Cancun WTO trade talks beginning in September will have important implications on the livelihoods of many Irish farmers.

Cllr McHugh said:

"In a few weeks in Cancun the global trade talks will get under way, this is where the livelihoods of many Irish farmers will be negotiated. Europe must not give in to American demands on the issue GM crops and foods or the issue of Export refunds.

"The US position on Export refunds is hypocritical. They give massive export refunds on grain, which flood the world market with cheap grain - often at well below the production cost - impacting on the viability of grain farming not just in developing countries but throughout Europe as well. At the same time US beef and dairy farmers continue to use growth promoters in their beef herd and there is the widespread use of BST in the dairy herd. None of these practises exist, or would we wish they did in Ireland or Europe.

"Last weeks Monsanto‚s president and chief executive Hugh Grant let the cat out of the bag about the reason they are vigorously perusing GM in every continent of the world. Speaking after the $600 million settlement of an Alabama lawsuit brought over highly damaging PCBs (poly chlorinated biphenyl) Grant said 'The strong cash generating capabilities of Monsanto's agricultural business allowed the company to contribute to the settlement'.

"Let know one be in any doubt this is the only reason that Monsanto is perusing GM food and using any argument to sell its product throughout the world. The American administration, which is a heavy supporter of GM, continues to press with litigation through the WTO against Europe on Genetically modified organisms.

"The British and Irish government must ensure that our farmers are protected from cuts in prices, and implement full decoupling as soon as possible. It is during negotiations such as CAP and WTO that we need the whole of Ireland represented. As long as we are partially governed by uninterested, non-elected and unaccountable British Ministers the case of Northern farmers will not be put." ENDS

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Meath Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Reilly has described 'as scandalous' the decision of An Bord Pleanála to give the go ahead to a motorway, between the important historical site of the Hill of Tara and Skyrne. The negative impact of massive volumes of traffic in close proximity to the Hill of Tara is intolerable. He also said that if the toll road goes ahead it will make Meath the most expensive county in Ireland to drive through but with no benefit to local people.

Cllr. Reilly said:

"The decision of An Bord Pleanála to give the go ahead to a motorway between the important historical site of the Hill of Tara and Skyrne is scandalous. The negative impact of huge volumes of traffic in close proxmity to the site is intolerable.

"Furthermore if this tolled road goes ahead we will have four toll roads coming into Meath, making it the most expensive county in Ireland to drive through. There will be no benefit to the people of Meath, only to the private companies involved who will in effect have a licence to print money.

Public Private Partnership is nothing more than an expensive form of hire purchase and it is the ordinary motorists who are going to pay the price for this through tolls. It is absolutely unnecessary and the worst kind of short-term thinking. It would be far more economically sensible to raise the money for the development of our infrastructure through borrowing or increased taxation on the wealthy or big business instead of hitting the ordinary motorist.

"I will be writing to both the NRA and the Minister for Transport asking that they urgently review what will be an intolerable situation for the people of Meath."ENDS

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Commenting on an attack by loyalists on two prisoners in Maghaberry, Sinn Féin spokesperson on prison issues Cllr. Michael Browne said:

"There are clearly serious issues of prison safety in Maghaberry. The establishment of a Review Panel was a tacit admission of this. The attack on two prisoners by loyalists in the prison on Monday evening makes the issue clear cut.

"What is required is segregation. This is a question of common sense and safety. Sinn Féin made that clear to the Review panel when we met with them last week.

"It is clear that forced integration does not work. There is no logic in trying to force politically hostile prisoners to live together in prison.

"The NIO already operate a policy of segregation in Maghaberry for individuals from within the various loyalist factions. This decision was taken on grounds of safety without the need for a review."ENDS

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Commenting on the news that another UUC meeting will take in early September, North Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Gerry Kelly said that 'the UUC cannot be allowed to have a veto over the peace process'.

Mr Kelly said:

"Over the past five years the continual pandering to negative unionism by the British government has resulted in the peace process becoming stalled and many aspects of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement remain outstanding.

"Internal difficulties within the UUP are no excuse for the continual stalling of key aspects of the Equality and Human Rights agenda which is at the core of the Agreement.

"People did not vote for the implementation of the parts of the Agreement which elements of the UUP are comfortable with. They voted for the full implementation of the Agreement and these rights and entitlements cannot be contingent on the outcome of a UUC meeting." ENDS

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A delegation made up of Sinn Féin's five TDs today visited Castlerea Prison to meet with the republican prisoners still being detained there by the State. The visit afforded the TDs the opportunity to update the prisoners on the current state of the peace process and to give them an insight in to the work being carried out by the TDs in Leinster House.

Speaking after the two hour meeting Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said:

"While a number of TDs have visited the prisoners over the past twelve months this has been the first opportunity for us all as an official delegation to come to Castlerea.

"While we found the prisoners to be in good spirits there was also a deep sense of frustration, which I must say was shared by the TDs themselves, that the issue of prisoner releases had not yet been satisfactorily resolved. The Irish Government has a duty and an obligation to fulfill its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement. It cannot cherry pick that agreement. It must honour it in full. I would again, on behalf of the five TDs and indeed the prisoners, call on the Taoiseach to release these men immediately." ENDS

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