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Ireland, the Lisbon Treaty, and the Church

June 14, 2008

Two days ago, the Irish electorate delivered a decisive “no” to the Lisbon treaty by a 53-47 percent margin. Ireland is the only country required to vote on it owing to a peculiarity of the Irish constitution. There are a number of reasons behind the defeat. The major one is that people simply did not understand the treaty. That is because it is largely procedural, concerned with a more efficient functioning of the European Union comprised of 27 member countries, with further expansion in the offing. It would strengthen the power of the directly-elected European parliament (so much for it increasing the democratic deficit), streamline the complicated working methods and voting rules, and allow Europe to speak with one voice on the world stage. It also emphasizes the foundational values of the union, including a charter of fundamental rights, freedom of European citizens and solidarity.

So what went wrong in Ireland? As I said , people didn’t understand it. As they have in the past, people used it to protest against the government in an environment of increasing economic uncertainty. And the “no” campaign was particularly effective with its scaremongering tactics. The Irish were told that the treaty would force them to raise their tax rates. They were told military neutrality would be jeopardized. They were told abortion would be introduced in Ireland. All lies. In the end, every single mainstream political party and social partner supported the treaty. Its opponents were a rag-tag group of Marxists, ex-terrorists, hard-care nationalists, the extreme Catholic right, and a shady unknown businessman with ties to the US defense industry.

I want to address the Catholic angle. Abp. Martin of Dublin said very clearly that the treaty does not alter the legal position of abortion in Ireland and chastised Catholic groups for making an issue of this. He noted that: “The treaty basically codifies existing realities, so therefore the areas in which you could say that this treaty represents substantial change rather than codification are marginal.” Bishop Smith of Meath attacked what he called “self-styled ‘Catholic’ organization” canvassing for a no vote on false pretenses. The bishops had to take the step of removing “no” material being placed in churches by these dubious groups.

The bishops also released a nice pastoral letter on the subject. Of course, they could not come down on either side of the political debate, but they would “condemn unreservedly” those who attempted to influence the outcome by “offering misleading or even patently incorrect advice or by introducing extraneous factors into the debate.” It should not be used as an excuse for a protest vote against the government. They note that the enlargement of the EU calls for “appropriate institutional reform which the treaty of Lisbon attempts to address”– to avoid gridlock, the EU cannot continue with “business as usual.”  Moreover, “the treaty of Lisbon attempts to address [the] democratic deficit and to promote a culture of engagement that fosters the ideal of active citizenship.”

The bishops also criticize attempts to reduce it to economic self-interest: “a community that is founded on purely economic self-interest will not last” as “Europe is also a civilization, the values of which are not merely repositories of cultural memory.” They provide a timely reminder to the euro-skeptics that the founders of what became the European Union- men like Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, and Alcide de Gespari– were “not only committed Catholics but they also recognized the manner in which Catholic social teaching could contribute to a new Europe, one that was founded on the respect for human dignity and the promotion of the common good.” They quote Pope Benedict’s favorable views on European integration in the life of the peace that it has brought. And while it is still regrettable that the treaty contains no explicit reference to Europe’s Christian heritage, “the aims and aspirations that underpin initiatives in the EU in many aspects reflect the Christian humanist vision of the good of society.”

The bishops praise the Lisbon treaty’s commitment to full employment, social progress, a high standard of environmental protection, linguistic and cultural diversity, equality between men and women, social justice and protection, solidarity between generations, protection of the rights of the child, and to combat marginalization and discrimination. How much of this would be supported by the American Catholic right, I wonder?

Ah, but they have already spoken. Completely oblivious to the voice of the Irish church, some US Catholics (the usual suspects) laud the no vote, the the grounds that Ireland has given the finger to “Brussels elitists”. As always, they are reflecting their own political and ideological biases onto Europe. They see the debate through the eyes of the kind of Enlightenment-era liberalism that prizes the liberty of the individual over the common good and solidarity (notice the whole comment is about economics- when the Irish bishops say that is exactly the wrong way to look at it). They are also wedded to a form of nationalism that elevates the role of the nation state above any supranational cooperation. Clearly, the dream of Erasmus and Thomas More for a united, peaceful, Europe was misplaced then…

And here’s the ultimate irony: these people oppose any political integration of Europe. The more sophisticated among them with make reference to subsidiarity. And yet, I do not see them calling for the breakup of the United States as a political entity, especially since its armed forces would seem to usurp the rights of lower-level communities to control their own defense. Then again, consistency is precisely what I don’t expect from the US Catholic right.

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42 Comments
  1. June 14, 2008 12:31 pm

    The link is broke so I am not able to see who the “usual Catholic Supects” are :)

  2. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 14, 2008 12:43 pm

    Should be fixed!

  3. June 14, 2008 3:12 pm

    MM

    Interesting. I didn’t even know of the vote. Sad.

  4. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 14, 2008 5:03 pm

    We should be glad the Irish had a voice. I hope other countries, not just a select few like Ireland and France, have a say in the future of their cultural, economic, and political sovereignty.

  5. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 14, 2008 5:42 pm

    Polls in Iraq show huge majorities against the US occupation. Too bad the empire ignores them.

  6. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 14, 2008 6:45 pm

    Yes, and what a historically strange empire: supporting the emergence of institutions of self-governance instead of a gangster homicidal menace who used to receive 99 percent or so of the “vote.”

  7. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 14, 2008 6:51 pm

    On the contrary, it is quite standard for empires to justify their actions in terms of liberation from savagry.

  8. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 14, 2008 8:43 pm

    You want to foster cooperation toward dialogue and action aimed at the common good? A super-state is exactly the wrong way to go. Our tribal species wishes to live by and be governed by those like them and their immediate families – linguistically, culturally, religiously, racially. There are quite a few examples of this through world history, and it is the best argument against the unintended consequences of Wilsonian adventures.

    I wish it weren’t so, but it is, and unless you expect mass conversions to a vision of globalist Catholicism tomorrow morning, I say we should be understanding of the Irish wishing to keep Ireland Irish.

  9. June 14, 2008 9:56 pm

    So what went wrong in Ireland?

    Could you go back to a preliminary question: Who says the result is “wrong”? Why should anyone care whether Ireland approved? Did Ireland have a veto? If not, how is life expected to get worse in Ireland? What difference does this make? Be concrete, if possible.

  10. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 14, 2008 10:28 pm

    Heck, the Irish are so stupid apparently they should just let Morning’s Minion run their country.

    They had a vote, and chose what they chose. Maybe one day sooner the EU will come crumbling down, and that will be a good day for Europe.

  11. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    June 14, 2008 10:50 pm

    Nationalism as we have known it is a relatively recent historical phenomenon.

  12. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    June 14, 2008 11:00 pm

    “Our tribal species wishes to live by and be governed by those like them and their immediate families – linguistically, culturally, religiously, racially. ”

    Where do you get this stuff and what are you trying to do with it?

  13. Mattie permalink
    June 14, 2008 11:40 pm

    “When you lose, say little. When you win, say less.” AL Shaver

  14. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 15, 2008 12:21 am

    Jonathan, you really are quite funny. If you are saying that the modern nation state usurps powers that rightly belong to subsidiary mediating institutions and wipes out a traditional network of overlapping loyalties in favor of a direct relationship between the individual and the state (how wonderfully Protestant!)– then I agree with you. And I would name the United States the worst example of this super state.

    If you knew anything of the EU, you would understand that subsidiarity is a founding value, and that a major strand in European Christian democracy favors the notion of a “Europe of the regions”, where most power lies at the regional level, with a constitutionally-limited suprnational authority. For example, we will not see under Lisbon a “European army”. And yet we have an “Ameican army” that people seem to idolize rather than condemn on subsidiarity grounds.

  15. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 15, 2008 12:22 am

    And Tim seems to know more than the Irish bishops. Americanism run amuck…

  16. Blackadder permalink
    June 15, 2008 12:27 am

    Given how great you make this treaty sound, shouldn’t you be condemning the Irish government for even having this referendum? You say this is required by the Irish constitution, but isn’t that a positivistic, Hobbesian way of looking at it? To paraphrase you on another thread, why should anyone “give a rat’s ass” about what your constitution says?

  17. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 15, 2008 12:28 am

    SB: as I noted, this is largely a procedural treaty. which is exactly why it failed– it was realy hard to explain. But with an expanding union, Lisbon is critical to efficient functioning. It’s not a matter of explicit losses that can be pointed to, but rather a continuation of the present “muddling through” with the ability of countries to veto a large swath of policy in a growing union. And if Ireland says no, it just can’t proceed– all countries must ratify.

  18. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 15, 2008 12:53 am

    Mark: feel free to read into that comment any nefarious undertones you wish, and have fun!!

    MM: The U.S. is a “superstate”, and it has been widely commented upon that the EU wishes to develop into a “United States of Europe” (right or wrong that is a common refrain).

    My point still holds, however, and here is the difference: the U.S. for its first century of existence in particular was largely homogeneous linguistically, culturally, religiously, racially. This increased trust and made cooperation more likely to happen.

    The EU is the exact opposite – unelected business, governmental, and societal elites are attempting to merge peoples with long histories of their own who do not wish to merge. This is a rather curious way to foster the common good, no?

    Robert Putnam is right: the most diverse places have the least amount of trust and social capital, and the tendency is to “hunker down,” to borrow his phrase. This is not to say one group of people has more inherent worth than another, but to state the obvious: people want to associate, and be ruled by, those like them.

    Good luck to those with faith in the EU project, and I hope you are not personally invested in this inevitable failure. Belgium will formally break up into its two groups long before we see a EU superstate.

  19. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    June 15, 2008 8:47 am

    jj2,

    “My point still holds, however, and here is the difference: the U.S. for its first century of existence in particular was largely homogeneous linguistically, culturally, religiously, racially. This increased trust and made cooperation more likely to happen.”

    The historical ‘flattening’ in this comment is simply breathtaking.

  20. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    June 15, 2008 11:00 am

    “Robert Putnam is right: the most diverse places have the least amount of trust and social capital, and the tendency is to “hunker down,” to borrow his phrase. This is not to say one group of people has more inherent worth than another, but to state the obvious: people want to associate, and be ruled by, those like them. ”

    In addition to “bonding capital”, there is also “bridging capital”…lest you forgot.

  21. June 15, 2008 11:01 am

    If you knew anything of the EU, you would understand that subsidiarity is a founding value, and that a major strand in European Christian democracy favors the notion of a “Europe of the regions”, where most power lies at the regional level, with a constitutionally-limited suprnational authority. For example, we will not see under Lisbon a “European army”. And yet we have an “Ameican army” that people seem to idolize rather than condemn on subsidiarity grounds.”

    MM that is indeed a mix bag. I am not anti EU. People do have concerns exaclty how much power will be in Brussels. Those concerns and perhaps fears of over reaching are not exactly being taken out of thin air. I really think the EU powers that be should perhaps take a time out and just try to get things to work under their existing rules. It is all process.

    As to the UNited States and the EU. I have always thought it folly to try to think of the EU as some “UNited States” of Europe. IT cannot be. THe UNited States has it own unique history that formed it.

    As for the military this is again a particular theme I see you return too. That is Subsidarity and Defense!!! It is not 1861 anymore. The last time such a concept was was tried ( as perhaps you envision) on these shores it was by the infant Confederate States of America. Needles to say it did not work out so well as Jefferson Davis learned when he was at wits end dealing with the Governors of North Carolina and Georgia.

    When Federal Troops had to be used in a few places to enforce Integration decrees aI am glad that those States National Guards or parts there of were nationalized. It would have been a sorry state of affairs if we had for instance the State of Mississippi Guard fighting it out with the US MIlitary.

    Sibsidarity does not mean everything is performed at a local level. I think we would ucknowledge that have over 50 different postal systems would not be keen. Having 50 different Federal Reserves would not be great or the fact that over 50 states could have their own trade agrements.

    As to the military , the National Guard is still alive and well as I saw first hand during our recent Hurricances

  22. June 15, 2008 11:50 am

    I have sort of being looking into this no vote. It appears that a huge part of the problem was the “Yes” campaign. THey were poorly organized, had some of the leaders involved in it having scandal problems, and did not realize they had a fight on theor hands till too late

  23. June 15, 2008 2:37 pm

    Will the Eurocrats keep holding these votes until the desired result is reached and then made permanent?

    Looks like it. See the transcript in the comments here:

    http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/ireland-i-love-you/

  24. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 15, 2008 3:29 pm

    JH: yes, poorly organized, but the previous Taoiseach affected by the financial scandal had resigned (Bertie Ahern) and was replaced by the competent-but-boring Brian Cowen. Anyway, Bertie remains incredibly popular. No, the issue is that Fianna Fail thought this would be easy, and fell asleep at the wheel, and found themselves unable to effectively counter the lies (and they wre lies) of the “no” campaigners.

  25. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 15, 2008 3:39 pm

    Jonathan, as usual, birngs race into the question. US homogeous implies big government good. EU heterogeneous implies big government bad.

    I am simply flabbergasted by this statement:

    “….the U.S. for its first century of existence in particular was largely homogeneous linguistically, culturally, religiously, racially. This increased trust and made cooperation more likely to happen.”

    Are you not forgetting the great ur-sin of America, that of slavery? You seem to be just ignoring the fact that your ” linguistically, culturally, religiously, racially” simply assumed that the “others” were not human, and could be subjected to slavery and even genocide. I know your best friend James Watson is on record saying that these Africans are not so intelligent anyway, and you are on record saying that the effects of IQ and race should effect education policy– in other words, your hankering for the “first century of the US’s existence” seems more broadbased than you care to let on.

    And you still fail to see that the problem is the nation state. The process of integration is so torturous in Europe because the 18th century concept of the nation state remains so potent. A truly Catholic union would have a supranational structure, with power devolved to the regions– taking the nation state out of the way.

    Look at it this way: Ireland has a mere 4 million people. The EU has 500 million people. Why should a vote in these specific boundaries be able to veto the outcome? If you love democracy so much, what kind of democracy was that?

  26. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 15, 2008 4:45 pm

    Yeah, here we go, as usual, projecting in all sorts of things so as to blusteringly knock down strawmen. Slavery and genocide this time! OK. If this is what is necessary to have those little moments of moral superiority, go ahead and soak in that good feeling. “I am not a racist, I am not a racist, … ”

    On the democracy point, if the EU elites value democracy, how about letting other countries vote on its treaties, instead of just the French and the Dutch and the Irish? Will we see now in Ireland what happened to the French and the Dutch, as the EU just pressed ahead as though those votes didn’t matter in the slightest? Watching all these attempts at bulldozing through various ratifications is almost breathtaking, especially given that in those cases where the people are actually consulted, they overwhelmingly say NO.

  27. Gary Keith Chesterton permalink
    June 16, 2008 7:28 am

    MM wrote:
    “A truly Catholic union would have a supranational structure, with power devolved to the regions– taking the nation state out of the way.”

    Yes, you are right, it would.

    But the EU is not that union. The EU is not Catholic, not in any way.

  28. June 16, 2008 9:47 am

    So if the treaty is strictly procedural and simply codifies existing reality, is this Der Spiegel article full of the metaphorical crap when it asserts that Lisbon is basically a repacked version of the EU constitution which was roundly rejected by French and Dutch voters a while back:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,559741,00.html

    It seems like at least some of the question in this vote (at least for those at mainstream press outlets in the UK that have run columns opposed to Lisbon) has been whether the EU should move from being a trade federation and international body to being something rather more like a federal government. Why exactly should people not feel free to express displeasure with this idea, even if they see value in the EU as an economic and international body? Does the fact that people like it in its present form mean that they cannot object to its (at least according to some comments) seeking to grow in scope?

  29. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 16, 2008 9:52 am

    It was most of the procedural aspects of the old constiution, but is less cumbersome, and is stripped of most of the political trappings. So, yes, it is quite similar. But we have gone well past the debate of whether we want a loose free trade area of a deeper federation. Economic and monetary union (EMU) took things in a whole new dimension. And nobody is saying EMU is a bad idea.

    One option being discussed is for Lisbon to proceed without Ireland, which basically means Ireland is frozen in a limbo, outside the EU for all intents and purposes. Trust me, Ireland does not want that.

  30. June 16, 2008 11:25 am

    Forgive my ignorance, but who is this “we” that are well past the question of whether the EU should become a serious federal government? I recall the Dutch and French voting against the constitution a few years ago, and obviously the Irish have now done so pretty solidly. Which countries have voted for this vision?

    Or is “we” the technocratic elite who are born to priviliged families, go to the diplomatic schools, and then move on to running the world of diplomacy and finance as their parents did? (Forgive the cynicism — that’s exactly how my boss, who comes from a Belgian diplomatic family and went through those schools, describes it.)

  31. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 16, 2008 2:35 pm

    Darwin, it is true that the the most educated and successful people are often driven to public service in places like France and Belgium. They may well be seen as an “elite” and I make no apologies for that. In the US, the “elites” tend more toawrd the private sector, but they are elites nonetheless– just not as visible.

    The only number that should count in an EU-wide poll. Has there been such an opinion poll? I believe there would be a substantial majority for Lisbon. Why should countries have a veto?

  32. Kevin permalink
    June 16, 2008 8:03 pm

    “I believe there would be a substantial majority for Lisbon.”

    Sure you do.

    The project is 0 for 3 at the polls, and the last thing the EUcrats would want is a continent-wide defeat. Hence, their frantic efforts to deprive the people of Europe the right to self-determination.

    As an aside, the Bishops did not endorse the Lisbon Treaty and reading their their 5 page Statement, one can easily interpret their reminder that Europe must nourish it’s Christian roots, as an argument for rejection.

    God Bless the Irish and the pro-lifers who torpedoed this monster.

  33. Morning's Minion permalink*
    June 16, 2008 10:14 pm

    No “pro-lifer” torpedoed this; the bishops pointed out that it was not a pro-life issue. I see dissenting from the teaching of the bishops extends beyond the US.

    I come back to my basic point: so many of those who detest the attempts to strengthen European integration are the most ardent Americanists. I would take them more seriously if they were calling for the dismantling of the federal government and military.

    And what is this fetish for decision by plebiscite? When did that become part of the natural law? I would remind you that the re-election of George Bush was achieved by an absolute majority of voters– Europeans were then calling 54 million Americans stupid, if I remember.

  34. June 17, 2008 12:19 pm

    In any other endeavor, if someone presented the same proposal to three varied and diverse groups over a four year period and was soundly rejected after each time, the smart thing would be to engage in soul-searching, wondering if there were perhaps sensible grounds for rejection that needed to be addressed.

    Instead, MM scapegoats, engages in musings about conspiracies and wonders about the terminal stupidity of the governed, thus coming to the conclusion that there is no need for their consent on such weighty matters beyond their benighted ken. Good stuff–it was this rant that made me realize Lisbon was a bad idea worthy of rejection.

  35. Kevin permalink
    June 17, 2008 2:36 pm

    “No “pro-lifer” torpedoed this; the bishops pointed out that it was not a pro-life issue.

    Really? Every pre and post referendum poll and commentary showed the prolife community loathed the idea of abortion being rammed down their throats by the bloody hands of Brussels’ autocrats. Do you read the Spectator, Mail or Guardian. Each is either hailing or blaming the prolifers in the pews for their role in smiting Moloch.

    “I see dissenting from the teaching of the bishops extends beyond the US.”

    Please provide the “teaching” . I’ve enclosed their Pastoral Letter. Read it. Then furnish proof of their endorsement; http://www.catholiccommunications.ie/lisbon08/lisbon08-pressrelease.htm
    Take all the time you need.

    I am not an Americanist, ardent or otherwise, but your careless disregard for the facts, suggests your support for the treaty is little more than a juvenile reaction to your domestic opponents. Grow up. The last thing the diverse peoples of Europe need is to fall under an explicitly anti-Christian, anti-democratic regime simply to satisfy your psychic need for debating points.

    Betraying the memories of Adenaur and Mauriac by falsely claiming this project , which again, disavows their faith, as somehow their handiwork is shameful.

  36. joseph permalink
    June 18, 2008 2:26 pm

    Wow. Morning Minion, I’m extremely offended. The Irish people are stupid because they didn’t vote according to how you would have voted? Once again you’ve proven to be a Catholic dissenter with a liberal bent so radical that you can kiss the soles of your feet. Disgusting. The liberals on this site never cease to amaze me.

  37. joseph permalink
    June 18, 2008 2:40 pm

    One more thing, since this is supposed to be a Catholic blog. MM, like all of the flabergasted secularist EU empirialists, seems to have left out the possibility that God had a hand in this.

    The “yes” campaign was a disaster… FF fell asleep at the wheel… Bertie’s scandal came at an inopportune time… Irish people are stupid… yadda yadda yadda…

    My goodness, it couldn’t have been God who permitted all of these things to happen, could it?

  38. joseph permalink
    June 18, 2008 4:09 pm

    Don’t forget to factor in the good work of Libertas as you are scrambling to find excuses why the secular machine failed to successfully brainwash the people of Ireland with their talk of “democracy”.

  39. Kevin permalink
    June 26, 2008 9:26 pm

    A sober realization and great news for the free and sovereign peoples of Europe:

    [The Lisbon treaty] cannot come into force. The EU cannot ignore its own rules. The Lisbon Treaty has been roundly and democratically rejected by Ireland, and it therefore cannot come into force. Any attempt to ignore this fact and make recourse to pressure and political manipulation to move the treaty forward would have disastrous consequences for Europe. […] Since the treaty must unanimously be ratified of all the member states of the EU and one of them has already rejected it, the final result of the ratification will be the same. With or without the Czech vote, the Treaty of Lisbon will not be ratified.
    Vaclav Klaus
    President of the Czech Republic

    http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3366

  40. August 9, 2008 7:26 am

    I had a letter in The Irish Times on this the other day:

    Madam,
    I welcome Stephen Collins’s call for a differentiated interpretation of the recent Lisbon vote (Opinion, August 2). It is apparent that the rejection of Lisbon is going to have gravely deleterious consequences for the national interest. The Government cannot simply ratify blindly a decision that exposes our nation to a future of poverty, powerlessness and isolation.
    Indeed, this is a case where a responsible Government must sacrifice itself, banking on the future gratitude of the people. That the Irish people wish to be part of the European Union has been made clear in a whole series of decisions over the years and in the immense investment we have made in building up the Union. To overthrow all this on the basis of one muddled referendum (in which the Yes side was financially hamstrung while the No side drew on abundant foreign funds) would be a betrayal of the democratic will of Irish citizens for decades.
    Yours,
    (Rev.) Joseph S. O’Leary, DD

    I added this clarification today:

    Madam,
    I agree that it would set a dangerous precedent if a Government were simply to overrule a referendum result. That is why I call for a differentiated interpretation.
    If a renegotiation of Lisbon is impossible and if the price of leaving the Lisbon process is falling far behind in Europe or leaving the EU altogether, then the question must be asked: Is this really what the Irish people asked for in the referendum? That would be in total contradiction with their previous attitude to Europe.
    The referendum could be interpreted without an excess of legerdemain as saying: we would like a more ideal treaty than Lisbon, but should this be impossible we want to stay in the EU all the same.
    Yours,
    Joseph S. O’Leary

    American money, aimed at dividing Europe, and the retrograde politicking of the ex-terrrorist Sinn Fein are among the forces that made for this botched referendum.

  41. August 9, 2008 7:29 am

    The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that his country will not put the brakes on the ratification process of the EU’s Lisbon treaty.

    The Irish Government will have to make the same declaration.

  42. Kevin permalink
    August 26, 2008 10:30 am

    Irish Cardinal takes ain at the E.U.;

    “Without respect for its Christian memory and soul, I believe it is possible to anticipate continuing difficulties for the European project. These will emerge not only in economic terms but in terms of social cohesion and the continued growth of a dangerous individualism that does not care about God or about what the future might have in store.” http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2008/0825/1219616651409.html

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