Ireland Newsletter - The Legend of Fionn MacCumhaill, finn maccool, fionn maccool, finn mccools, fin macool
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(C) Copyright - The Information about Ireland Site, 2011
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IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Famous Irish Legends: Fionn MacCumhaill
=== Paddywhackery by Mary McGinnis Bosman
=== Wolfe Tone - the Father of Irish Republicanism
=== A Dream of Inis Mor by Brian O'Raleigh
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
=== And Finally... Funny Irish quote of the month
Hello again from Ireland where the race to be the
next President has really taken off. For once
economic matters seem to have taken something of
a backseat although this is sure to change with
developments within Europe seriously impacting on
the fragile Irish recovery.
This months issue has another in our series on
Irish Legends - Fionn MacCumhaill - the leader of the
ancient Irish Fianna Warriors.
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
RACE TO BE IRISH PRESIDENT BLOWN WIDE OPEN
The race to be the next Irish President has
already had many twists and turns but the last
couple of weeks have been nothing short of
sensational. The apparent demise of the David
Norris campaign seemed likely to allow at least
one other high-profile independent candidate into
the contest. Former singer and MEP Rosemary
Scallon (known as 'Dana') made her intentions to
seek a nomination public when she wrote to Fianna
Fail leader Micheal Martin seeking his support.
Fianna Fail eventually decided not to run or
support any candidate, finally bowing out of the
race after much procrastination.
Then into the ring stepped Martin McGuinness of
Sinn Fein. The current Deputy First Minister of
the Northern Ireland Parliament sensationally
announced that he was running for the position
and seems certain to steal some voter ground from
Fianna Fail for his party, regardless of whether
he actually wins the race.
This bold move by Sinn Fein seemed to take the
other political parties by surprise with Fine
Gael quickest to start the questioning of the
suitability for the job of the Sinn Fein man.
Their own candidate, Jim Mitchell, has been largely
anonymous and was not the party leaderships first
choice. Trailing in the polls to Michael D.
Higgins of the Labour Party the entrance of Sinn
Fein into the race seems to have concentrated the
minds of the Fine Gael party, aware as they are
that McGuinness will be a tough act to beat.
Fine Gael have already focused their attacks on
Martin McGuinness and especially on his history as
a former member of the IRA in Ulster.
Martin McGuinness is not the only man with some
tough questions to answer. The resurgence of the
David Norris campaign in recent weeks will be sure
to raise yet further questions about his past
opinions as well as his judgement. His campaign
appeared to be all but over once members of his
own campaign team started to resign. Revelations
that he had written to the Israeli government
seeking clemency for his former lover who had been
convicted of the statutory rape of a 15 year old
in Palestine, are certain to be revisited. On the
one hand it seems that public opinion actually
wants him in the race for democracy's sake while
on the other hand it is evident that the problems
which seemed to scupper his campaign only a few
weeks ago have not gone away.
Of the 7 contenders only 5 have so far actually
gotten a nomination (either from 20 members of the
Irish parliament or from 4 local councils). It does
seem likely though that both David Norris and Dana
will get the required numbers to actually get their
name on the ballot paper. Once the field is set the
real mud-slinging is sure to begin in what looks
likely to be the most bitterly contested Irish
Presidential election ever.
FURTHER PROPERTY PRICE DECLINE
Any hopes that the bottom of the Irish property
market had been reached appear to have been
optimistic with recent statistics showing a further
decline of 1.6% it the month of August, bringing the
12-month decline to 13.9%. It is hard to say
just how much of this recent decline is due to the
apparent unwillingness of banks to lend in the wake
of the recent debt crisis, the same crisis that
still engulfs much of Portugal and Greece and
seems likely to infect Spain and Italy.
The Central Statistics Office shows that the
overall fall from the 2007 peak in the Irish
property market has been a massive 43%. As long
as the problems with the banks continue in both
Ireland and within Europe then the Irish property
market will remain in the doldrums.
AMBITIOUS PUBLIC TRANSPORT PLANS NOW SHELVED
The large-scale plans to develop new rail links
to the west of Dublin and part-underground rail
service to Dublin Airport are likely to be
scrapped in the face of the financial collapse of
the country. The most pressing need in
infrastructure terms is to link Dublin Airport to
the existing rail network so a much less
expensive extension of the DART rail system is
likely to go ahead. The current DART already runs
quite close to Dublin Airport so an extension of
the line seems the most logical outcome to this
The Fine Gael government has also mooted the
possibility of greatly increasing the number of
tolls on Irish roads to try to increase revenue.
The grandiose scale of the 'Metro North' proposal
running from St. Stephens Green to the Airport now
also appear to be all but dead.
ECONOMIC DOWNFALL CONTINUES TO BITE
The recent economic turmoil has resulted in
greatly increased taxes with more pain on the way
in the upcoming budget. Some economists have
suggested that Ireland was wise to 'get the pain
over with' by increasing tax revenue sharply
while also cutting expenditure, an action that
has not been without serious consequences.
Cutbacks in the health sector have seen the
services of some hospitals curtailed. In the
education sector Irish primary school classes are
now the second largest in the European Union at
an average of 24 pupils per class.
GOVERNMENT DENIES IRISH CURRENCY BEING REPRINTED
The nervousness around the Euro currency has
intensified in recent weeks with it now certain
that Greece will default on its loan obligations
making its exit from the Eurozone even more
possible. EU leaders in France and Germany in
particular are determined to protect the European
currency and have been attempting to isolate the
debt problems in Ireland, Greece and Portugal
while also establishing a huge monetary fund that
can be drawn upon in the event of any future
Even these plans may not be enough. While the
situation in Ireland continues to be bad the
situation in Greece is approaching a catastrophe.
Tax increase after tax increase are being heaped
upon the Greek people with no end in sight.
Massive public protests and strikes will do
nothing to instil confidence in the financial
markets that the country is on the right track.
The next logical step after a Greek default is
for that country to consider leaving the Euro
currency altogether, which would allow it to set
its own exchange rates (presumably at a greatly
devalued rate to the Euro).
In the face of this ongoing uncertainty the Irish
government has had to deny publicly that it is
secretly printing the old Irish currency (the
'punt') in advance of a possible Irish exit from
NEW YORK HEALTH LAWS MAY BE COPIED IN IRELAND
Several laws that were introduced by the state
of New York in 2008 that required restaurants
to display calorie information on menus may be
copied in Ireland. The Irish Department of Health
is also considering a 'sugar tax' on certain
foods that are known to be big contributors to
obesity and diseases such as diabetes. The New
York scheme has already been copied in the UK.
While Ireland was the first country to introduce
a smoking ban the New York anti-smoking laws are
even tougher than in Ireland with smoking in
public places such as parks banned. It is possible
that the smoking ban may be similarly extended in
WILD SCENES OF CELEBRATION AS THE DUBS FINALLY WIN
The annual torture that has become the life of a
Dublin GAA football fan has finally come to an end.
After years of false dawns and near misses the
'Dubs' have finally come good with a dramatic last
gasp victory over arch rivals Kerry in the Croke
Park final. Trailing by 4 points with only minutes
to spare the turnaround when it came was as
dramatic as it was unlikely. With virtually the last
kick of the game the Dublin goalkeeper Stephen
Cluxton sailed the winning point over the bar from
a free kick in front of the huge 82,300 crowd.
Moments later the full-time whistle sounded with
the roar from the Dublin fans heard throughout the
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FAMOUS IRISH LEGENDS: FIONN MacCUMHAILL
Fionn MacCumhaill was a mythical Irish warrior.
His name has a number of different spellings and
anglicized forms including Finn McCool and Fionn
MacUmaill. The name Fionn is taken from the
Gaelic word that translates as 'fair' likely
referring to lightly coloured hair. Fionn was
the son of Cumhaill who leader of the ancient
Fianna, a band of mercenary warriors who lived
apart from the rest of Gaelic society.
Hi mother was Muirne, who was daughter to
Tadg Mac Nuadat, a druid. Cumhaill kidnapped
Muirne when her father refused him permission
to wed. Outlawed by the High King of the time,
Conn of the Hundred Battles, the subsequent
battle of Cnucha resulted in the demise of
Cumhaill by Goll MacMorna, who assumed
leadership of the Fianna.
The now pregnant Muirne was exiled and was
placed under the care of Fiacal MacConchinn,
Cumhaills brother-in-law. After bearing her
child Muirne left him in the care of his new
family and a warrior woman named Liath Luachra,
who was responsible for teaching him the ways of
war and the Fianna. He was also tutored by
Finnegas, the druid poet who had spent years
searching for the 'salmon of knowledge', a
mythical create that could endow all of the
knowledge of the world. Eventually he caught the
fish and instructed the young Fionn to cook it
for him. While cooking the fish over the fire
he scalded his thumb on the hot flesh and
instinctively put the thumb to his mouth,
instantly gaining the wisdom long sought after
As an adult Fionn traveled to Tara, seat of the
High Kings of Ireland. For 23 years the fairy
Aillen razed the site to the ground every Samhain
having first lulled its guards into slumber with
her music. Fionn managed to defeat Aileen however,
by keeping himself awake by piercing his own skin
with the point of his spear. His nobility was
recognised and Goll MacMorna, who was still leader
of thr Fianna, stepped aside to allow Fionn assume
his rightful place. Gol even gave Fionn his home
at the Hill of Almu as recompense for the death of
His most famous wife was Sadbh who had been turned
into a deer by the druid Fer Doirich. While out
hunting, the hounds of Fionn, Bran and Sceolang,
recognised the deer as a once-human form, since
they too had once been human. Fionn did not kill
the deer who was immediately transformed into his
beautiful wife. She bore him a son, Oisin, who
later became one of the greatest of all of the
Fianna. The druid Fer Doirich returned however and
re-cast Sadbh as a deer who then vanished into the
Later in his life the reigning High King, Cormac
Mac Airt, promised Fionn the hand of his daughter
Grainne. It was not be however as Grainne and
Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, another of the Fianna, eloped
with Fionn in pursuit. The mater was resolved when
Fionn allowed the lovers to be together, only for
him to take revenge in later life by not using his
powers to heal Diarmuid and prevent his death,
after he had been gored by a boar.
Fionn is credited with creating the Giants
Causeway as stepping stones from the North of
Ireland to Scotland. Another legend tells how he
threw a large piece of the land into the sea at an
enemy, that piece of land becoming the Isle of
Man. The hole left behind by the clump of land
he threw became Lough Neagh.
The death of Fionn MacCumhaill is shrouded in
mystery. One legend suggests that he is not dead
but merely sleeping in a cave under Dublin, ready
to strike back against Ireland's enemies.
Mary McGinnis Bosman
The Irish have an old saying:
Tell a story, compose a lie, or get out!
I am almost pure Irish, with names like Hobbs,
O'Brien, Shannon, Daley, Carmody and Cassidy
in my background. And with this kind of family,
we heard a lot of stories! My seven brothers
and sisters and I loved to hear of my mother's
Irish-American childhood in the 1920's and '30's
in the South Side of Chicago. She told us how
they'd celebrate St. Patrick's Day by getting
together in a big old brownstone with the Irish
clans – the Clancys, Dalys and Greens. They
would wind up the Victrola, dance, play musical
instruments, pour their drink and sing. The men
would go out to the kitchen where the big round
table was, to play cards. Presently, arguing
would set in, there would be fingers pointed,
accusations made, raised voices. One would lunge
at another, then, suddenly feeling bad, they
would apologize, hug and sing together. A little
teary eyed, they'd get back to their cards, and
pour more beer.
Into this, my mother's life, one day stepped
Bridget Lyons, a fresh face off the boat straight
from Ireland to live with her sister, Mary
Flanagan. Bridie was only nineteen or twenty then.
It was famine of the heart that made her come
here - being left at the altar by a scoundrel who
was a 'laddybuck with the wimmen.'
My mother and Bridie became great friends. When my
parents moved to Wisconsin, she continued to visit
us for one week every July, and with that brogue
brought fireworks! When she would see my quiet,
unassuming father, Don McGinnis walk in the door,
she'd throw her arms around him and land one big
smackeroo right on his lips. I never saw my father
and mother embrace, although they brought nine
children into the world. For many years I believed
'the angels came with the babies and put them on
the seventh step', as Frank McCourt put it.
She had a prim smile, dark brown eyes that looked
right through you, honest and keen as 'a wet
Sunday is long'. Her back was ramrod straight, and
she always wore white anklets with her black
pumps. She smoked skinny cigars, and drank her gin
and bubble up which she'd enjoy every day promptly
at 4:00. She always made her point, and not
without a poke!
A favorite family story: Bridie's sister, Mary,
had husband troubles. He was an alcoholic - had a
bit of 'the weakness'. One morning, when Mary was
wailing yet again about John's cravings, Bridie got
busy in the kitchen. She took out the eggs, dug
around the pantry for the frying pan. Mary said
gratefully, 'Oh Bridie, thank you for making
breakfast!' With the heavy pan in hand, Bridie
retorted, 'I'm not makin' breakfast for anyone
'til I hit your man over th' head with this!'
Bridie didn't get married until she was in her
sixties. She held a good job in Chicago and had
many men working under her who respected her. Now
and then my mother Helen worked a few odd jobs to
make extra money as she had eight of us to care
for. Occasionally, she went to the Catholic Church
to wipe the Offertory dishes, and refill the vigil
lights. I'm sure it was for the peace and quiet.
One day when Bridie was visiting my mother here in
Door County, they both came to the church. Bridie
sat fidgeting in the pew in the empty church,
watching my mother work for almost thirty minutes.
Finally, Helen felt a poke in her back and just
knew holy shamrocks were about to hit the fan.
'Helen! Helen!!' Bridie whispered.
'Do they pay you for this job?'
'No Bridie. I'm a volunteer.'
A thunder of silence. Then, 'D'ya mean the God
damned Pope is sittin' on his millions in Rome
and won't pay you for this job??' Bridie bellowed.
My mother has a weak bladder, and she was choking
back both shock and laughter. She knew if she
tried to run to the sacristy, and down the stairs
to the bathroom, Bridie would follow clucking all
the way, and for sure they'd run into the priest.
And then he'd find out what hell was really like!
So she ran down the long center aisle of the large
church, and out and down the many steps to the car,
Bridie hissing all the way.
I wish I could have turned out like Bridie. If she
had been quiet, eager to please others, (boring)
like myself, my mother's hot summer days of endless
washing and hanging clothes would then have had no
excitement, no unpredictability, no sass and
Mary McGinnis Bosman
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A BIOGRAPHY OF WOLFE TONE
The famous and important Irish historical figure
Wolfe Tone was born Theobald Wolfe Tone on 20th
June 1763. His place in Irish history can
scarcely be overstated as he is regarded as the
father of modern Irish republicanism.
He was born in Dublin to a Protestant family and
attended Trinity College, qualifying as a
barrister at the age of 26, practicing in
London. He soon turned his attention to Irish
politics and wrote an essay attacking the ruling
administration which became popular among the
liberal 'Whigs' of the time. At the time the
French Revolution had had a profound effect on not
just French but on world politics. Ireland was no
exception with the ideals of that revolution
fuelling a desire for separation from English
Whig stalwarts such as Henry Grattan however,
wanted Catholic emancipation without breaking the
tie to England. Tone was adamant that the Irish
people should be governed by an Irish parliament
and, although he was an Anglican he proposed
co-operation among the various religions as a
means to make progress on the issue of separation
from England. In 1791 Wolfe Tone founded the
Society of the United Irishmen, together with
Napper Tandy and Thomas Russell. The moderate
aims of this society (parliamentary reform) soon
became overtaken with the desire for full
independence from England and especially once
Tones view of the necessity for armed insurrection
took prominence. It was at this point that the
difference between Henry Grattan and his pursuit of
parliamentary reform without democratic consequence
and Wolfe Tone's view of revolutionary democracy
came into stark relief.
The English authorities were quick to realise the
threat and sought to promote religious intolerance
and sectarianism, thus dividing the Catholics and
Presbyterians who otherwise were of the same Irish
stock. The newly formed Orange Order was also a
useful tool used by the English in stoking
religious discord. By 1794 and after much
political manoeuvring it became clear to Wolfe
Tone that no political party would fully get
behind their movement and they began to lobby for
French military support in the form of an
Communications between the United Irishmen and the
French were betrayed when the go-between, an
English clergyman named William Jackson, was
arrested and charged with treason. Given that
England and France had been a war since 1793 any
collaboration between the United Irishmen and the
French would certainly have greatly alarmed the
parliament in London. The organisation was
effectively broken up by the English with several
of the leaders fleeing the country. Wolfe Tone was
able to use his connections to negotiate passage
from the country and he duly emigrated to America,
arriving in May, 1795. He had first stopped in
Belfast however, and made what became known as the
'Cavehill compact' with Russell and McCracken,
'Never to desist in our efforts until we subvert
the authority of England over our country and
asserted our independence'.
He lived in Pennsylvania until 1796 but disliked
the new American revolution, declaring that the
birth class system of England had been replaced
by one decided by wealth in the US. He travelled
to Paris with Tandy to try to persuade the French
to invade Ireland. He provided the necessary
intelligence to the French who were impressed with
his proposal. The result was an armada led by
Louis Lazare Hoche consisting of 43 vessels under
sail and 14,000 men. Much to Tone's disgust the
French could not land off Bantry Bay due to severe
weather and eventually returned to France. A further
attempt at invasion by a Dutch expedition in 1797
also fell foul of the weather with Tone returning
to Paris only to find that his greatest French
ally, Hoche, had died of consumption.
Records of the time showed that membership of the
United Irishmen numbered 280,000 volunteers, or
about 5% of the entire population. Had the French
force under Hoche been able to land at Bantry, and
been joined by a popular native uprising, then the
country would surely have been liberated from
By the winter of 1797/98, with hopes of a renewed
French attempt fading, the United Irishmen were
forced to adopt a go-it-alone military strategy
focused on Dublin. Their organisation was
strengthened in and around the capital and it
also expanded in south Leinster. The planned
insurrection was to have been a three-phased
affair: the seizure of strategic positions within
Dublin city co-ordinated with the establishment
of a crescent of positions outside in north County
Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. The
engagement of government forces in the counties
beyond was designed to prevent reinforcement.
Disaster struck on 12th March 1798 with the arrest
of most of the Leinster leadership. Further
arrests on the very eve of the rising in May
effectively decapitated the movement. The seizure
of Dublin from within was aborted as the rebels
waited for orders that never came.
United Irishmen positions outside the city
succumbed one by one with only Wexford showing
any success. A fortnight later (7-9 June), despite
the mauling at the hands of Lake's forces the year
before, the United Irishmen of Antrim and Down
managed to rise up but they too were quickly
The Wexford insurgents met with a string of early
successes but were ultimately prevented from
spreading the insurrection beyond their own county
by defeats at New Ross (5 June) and Arklow
(9 June). Massive government forces began to move
in for the decisive military showdown at Vinegar
Hill, outside Enniscorthy (21 June). Although the
insurgents suffered defeat, the bulk of their
forces escaped encirclement and carried on the
struggle for another month, one group in the
Wicklow mountains and the other in a 'long march'
into the midlands before being worn down and
forced to surrender.
A month later (22 August) over a thousand French
troops under General Humbert landed at Killala,
County Mayo, but it was too little too late.
Despite some initial successes, including a
spectacular victory at Castlebar, Humbert and the
United Irishmen who flocked to his standard were
defeated at Ballinamuck, County Longford on 8th
The 1798 Uprising was a military catastrophe. The
French and Irish forces were severely out-gunned
in the field and in one battle 2,000
revolutionaries faced 30,000 English regulars.
The captured French were shipped home, but the
Irish were all executed after their surrender. It
is estimated that 30,000 Irishmen were killed in
fighting that terrible summer, many of the victims
were peasants who faced cannon with pitchforks,
and a great number of these were women.
Tone himself had sailed in a French raid at
Donegal in October 1798 but here too his hopes
were dashed. He was captured and taken to Dublin
and court-marshalled. He requested that he be
afforded the death of a soldier, to be shot,
rather than hanged. His request denied he died in
Provost's Prison in Dublin of a neck wound in
November 1798 at the age of 35 years. History
records his death as being a suicide but there
remains some doubt.
The defeat of the United Irishmen signalled the
end of Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland as the
Act of Union of 1800 abolished the powerless
parliament in College Green and moved all
authority back to the parliament in London.
Some United Irishmen welcomed this development
as the first step on the road to parliamentary
reform as did many of the Catholic peasantry
who envisaged their election in the English
parliament. Daniel O'Connell secured Catholic
Emancipation in 1829 by which time the context
of separation from England had changed from being
a wholly national issue to being a Catholic issue.
The great famine of 1845 to 1849 destroyed the
countryside and for those who survived and did
not emigrate left a lasting legacy of hatred of
Wolfe Tone is remembered by republican groups
as the father of their cause. When examining the
timeline to Irish freedom it is certainly easy
to view him as the political ancestor of
O'Connell, the Young Irelanders, Parnell and
Davitt, Pearse and Connolly, Collins and DeValera,
on the ultimate path to independence.
He is commemorated annually at his graveside at
Bodenstown, County Kildare.
'To subvert the tyranny of our
execrable government, to break
the connection with England,
the never failing source of
all our political evils, and to
assert the independence of my
country - these were my objects.
To unite the whole people of Ireland,
to abolish the memory of all past
dissentions, and to substitute the
common name of Irishman, in the place
of the denominations of Protestant,
Catholic, and Dissenter
- these were my means.'
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A DREAM OF INIS MOR
by Brian O'Raleigh
I have known the longing, known that I was lost
I knew it as a child before the open door
I knew it as a stranger upon the foreign shore
That feeling left me only when the name came...
It brought with it a yearning, a calling from my soul,
A place I'd ever feared, I'd been so long alone
It carried with it sorrow, the opening of some door
When I heard the name I knew an angel stood on Inis Mor
I lost my way long years ago, I faltered and I strayed
I turned away from those I loved,
these choices I have made
But now at night I wonder, could I return once more
Could I return to what I was by the cliffs at Inis Mor
Sometimes there is no logic as to meaning or to cause
Sometimes the heart must rule the head,
unless we die as slaves
Sometimes at night I lie there,
called by spirit to that shore
And know an angels waiting by the cliffs at Inis Mor
I swore an oath long years ago that I would follow soul
I've stumbled and betrayed myself more than I have told
Now I stand on foreign beaches and know I am no more
Yet hear the voices calling from the cliffs at Inis Mor...
Night waves turning seeking, a half open dark door
Whispered lost memories from that hard broken shore
Black waves rolling over me, dark down from the deep
Where lies my purpose, where will I sleep
The poem above is taken from my new book,
'Passage to Inis Mor' subtitled 'A Tale From The
Aran Isles'. It's a fictional story of a man born
in Ireland, raised in Australia who returns to
Ireland aged 38 to meet a seanachie on Inis Mor
who helps him rebuild an old Galway Hooker and
also to find the meaning and purpose of his life.
Find out more here:
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras.
PRONOUNCED: Iss mot on tawn/lawn on tuck/russ?
MEANING: Hunger is a good sauce
PHRASE: An bhfuil ocras ort?
PRONOUNCED: On will uck/russ urt?
MEANING: Are you hungry?
PHRASE: Níl. Ach tá tart orm.
PRONOUNCED: Kneel. Ock taw tart ur/um
MEANING: No, but I am thirsty
View the archive of phrases here:
The winner was: firstname.lastname@example.org
who will receive the following:
A Single Family Crest Print (decorative)
Send us an email to claim your print, and well done!
Remember that all subscribers to this
newsletter are automatically entered into the
competition every time.
AND FINALLY... FUNNY IRISH QUOTE OF THE MONTH
Brendan Behan, 1923-1964, (renowned Irish author).
'All publicity is good, except an obituary notice.'
'If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks.'
'Other people have a nationality.
'The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.'
I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
Until next month,
The Information about Ireland Site.
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