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Malcolm Byrne was elected in Wexford. Eamonn Farrell/

As it happened: Fianna Fáil claim two by-election seats and it's one each in Dublin for SF and the Greens

Fine Gael come away empty-handed after the party failed to hold onto the seat vacated by Frances Fitzgerald.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 30th 2019, 11:00 PM

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin will be more than satisfied this evening after his party claimed two by-election wins, holding onto the seat vacated by Billy Kelleher in Cork in May and claiming the one vacated by Mick Wallace in Wexford.

The Greens too will be happy with their win in Dublin Fingal, which increases their Dáil representation to three and provides a campaign boost heading into the general election.

Mary Lou McDonald is likely relieved that Sinn Féin got a result on the board in Dublin Mid-West, after the party’s poor showing in May’s local and European elections.

Here’s how events played out today:

So far though we’re only working by a few early tally indidations. 

In Dublin Fingal, Councillor Joe O’Brien appears to be doing quite well according to RTÉ’s Mícheál Lehane.

The constituency is largely made up of the former Dublin North constituency that used to be the home of former Green Party leader Trevor Sargent.

To actually get elected a candidate will need to reach the quota of 50% of the vote plus one, that is unlikely to happen after the first count in any constituencies so we’ll then start seeing some eliminations. 

This is probably a good time to point you towards our four constituency profiles. They’ll give you an idea about who could be sitting in the Dáil next week:

We’ve heard about one former fertile green area in Dublin Fingal, but how about another in the shape of former Green Party TD Paul Gogarty. 

Gogarty is currently an independent councillor but has been running on his green credentials and it looks like he’s been doing well early on. As well as picking up a lot of number ones, he also appears to be very transfer friendly. 

Current tallies put hm behin Sinn Féin councillor Mark Ward but that could change. 

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has been speaking to RTÉ and was asked why turnabout was so bad. He says it could be down to electoral fatigue or that fact that we have a general election coming in the near future. 

I think it’s probably a combination of the fact that the elections are taking place in November. I think if you look at what’s happening across the water, all the feedback is that it’s very difficult to get engagement in the UK on this 12 December election which they’re facing. 

“And I think it’s also probably influenced by the fact that most of the electorate know that they’re facing a further electoral contest sometime in 2020. And perhaps they feel that they will withhold their judgement until then.”

The Green Party’s chairman Roderic O’Gorman has been speaking to RTÉ about Joe O’Brien’s performance in Dublin Fingal:

We’re very happy with the tallies we’re seeing not just in Skerries in the north county but across all parts of Fingal. Joe is doing very well and Malahide,doing very well in Portmarnock, I’ve seen him top top boxes in both of those areas. And in Swords, he’s holding his own very much. He’s in second or third in most of the boxes there.

Verona Murphy / YouTube

Verona Murphy’s campaign in Wexford has been the most controversial talking point over the past number of weeks and remains so today.

The night before yesterday’s vote, Murphy shared a video on her Facebook page which said she was the victim of “character assassination in the media”. 

The video features shots of newspaper headlines about Murphy and is set to the Survivor song Eye of the Tiger, made famous as the theme tune to Rocky. 

Fine Gael ministers have been reacting to it this morning, with Murphy seeking to join the Fine Gael ranks in the Dáil. 

Charlie Flanagan, an image of whom features in the video, said it was “not an official Fine Gael video” while Michael Creed said he had not seen it.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond with what looks like a full tally in Dublin Mid-West.

It confirms what we’ve seen earlier that Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward appears to be leading. Fine Gael’s Emer Higgins polling strongly too with Paul Gogarty behind her again. 

It’s setting up an intriguing contest for the seat that could run and run. 

We have no clear details yet on turnout after yesterday it was described as ‘diabolically low’ – but if this from RTÉ’s Cian McCormack is anything to go by it’s not good. 

Counters opened a box in Bishopstown in Cork to find (*grimacing emoji*) no votes.

Of the votes that were cast in Corth North-Central, here’s how the tallies look with two-thirds of the boxes open.

Anne-Marie McNally of the Social Democrats isn’t giving much away about her chances in Dublin Mid-West.

Her party co-leader Catherine Murphy has said that they will targeting the seat next year if they don’t win it today. 

We certainly do have hopes, we run a very strong campaign and obviously a by-election is very different election to a general election but we would be very hopeful with Anne-Marie McNally when it comes to the general election. Obviously the turnout is a very low turnout, which is a story in itself. And this is really kind of, if you like, an end of term set of by-elections, as opposed to mid-term elections, and I think that’s important because I think the relevance of electing people for a small number of weeks or months, wasn’t lost on people.

“But the kinds of issues that were raised on the doorstep will obviously frame the general election because a lot of them were national issues.”

Aidan Delaney of South East Radio has a tally from Wexford. 

Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne is looking very good for a seat ahead of Verona Murphy. 

Labour leader Brendan Howlin is in his constituency of Wexford to support his party’s candidate George Lawlor. 

He’s been speaking about the contest in the constituency and the comments by Verona Murphy: 

I think most of us were very uncomfortable with the entire tone of those remarks. I said well before the election campaign, that there is responsibility on political leaders to ensure that we don’t change the discourse in Ireland to follow some of the populist campaigns of Eastern Europe and other parts of Europe that we have avoided, thankfully, because of, I think, very clear leadership.

“We want to have an inclusive debate. We want to have a debate based on facts and I think there is a responsibility on our political leaders to ensure that happens.”

The poor turnout appears to be helping some candidates more than others.

Tallies are showing Sinn Fein’s Mark Ward as leading in Dublin Mid-West, suggesting he has got his vote out strongly in the areas he’s popular in .

Here’s the full tally in Cork North Central from Green Party candidate Oliver Moran.

He’s happy with how he party performed but all but admits he won’t be getting near enough votes to contend. He says he’s targeting the general election.

Alan Healy, the deputy news editor of the Echo in Cork, told us a few weeks ago that Cork North Central is viewed as “Jack Lynch territory”.

Fianna Fáil looking good to hold the seat that was vacated by Billy Kelleher. 

Some images from the count centre in Wexford. 

9373 Wexford count Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

9405 Wexford count Labour leader Brendan Howlin speaks to a reporter from Beat radio station. Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

9319 Wexford count Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

9427 Wexford count Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín. Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

We’re approaching our first counts in a couple of areas. 

The first count in Cork North Central is expected at 1.30 pm, in Dublin Fingal at 2 pm and in Dublin Mid-West shortly too. 


It’s in Dublin Mid-West and shows Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward polling very strongly. Here are the numbers. 


The bottom four candidates have now been eliminated.


This time in Cork North Central where, as the tallies were indicating, Fianna Fáil’s Padraig O’Sullivan leads the pack. 


Some reaction to that Cork North Central result.

Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne prompts howls of laughter in the Saturday RTÉ studio after saying that Padraig O’Sullivan “looks reliable”. 

“He’s a good candidate, I mean I don’t actually know him but one thing that struck me looking at photographs of him, he looks trustworthy, he looks reliable, he just has that look about him,” Byrne says. 

Judge for yourselves….

PastedImage-48181 Twitter Twitter

Byrne was also asked about Verona Murphy’s campaign for Fine Gael and the latest campaign video we reported on earlier. 

Byrne says that Fianna Fáil believes there has been “a deliberate testing of the waters on immigration by Fine Gael in Wexford”.

“And you know you mentioned the comments from my candidate in Fingal, which were eight years ago before she was in politics,” he says.

But then obviously the Taoiseach campaigned, the Taoiseach mentioned Georgians and Albanians in another incident. Then Michael Ring, who was featured in that last video, was talking about a national conversation on immigration when nine or 13 women were proposed to move to Achill. It seems to us there was a deliberate testing of the waters.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin looks happy in Cork. 

And why wouldn’t he be? His party candidate has topped the poll and he’s holding A SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL GUIDE DOG PUPPY. 


Mark Ward extends his lead and Anne-Marie McNally will now be eliminated. 


Dominic McGrath taking over the liveblog here. And we’ve got another update for you. 


We’re racing through counts down in Cork, with things still looking like a Fianna Fáil victory as Padraig O’Sullivan sits safely enough at the top of the poll. 

Capture journal journal

While we’re on the subject of Cork, a brief bit of information on that Bishopstown ballot box, which contained a sum total of zero votes. 

A few people have been expressing shock on Twitter – and it is certainly rare to find a ballot box without a single vote. 

But Cork North-Central is a sprawling geographical area and as election expert Jennifer Kavanagh noted on Twitter earlier, it’s as much the fault of people who drew the boundaries of the constituency. 

For anyone not familiar with the geography of Cork, I think residents of Bishopstown -which is in south Cork city – would question being dubbed “north-central”. 


The votes from Anne-Marie McNally of the Social Democrats have been re-distributed. 

It seems, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Solidarity-People Before Profit, the Greens and Independent Paul Gogarty have all benefited the most. 

Capture journal journal


Here are the latest results from Cork North-Central. 

Padraig O’Sullivan still has a pretty comfortable lead over Fine Gael’s Colm Burke. 


Over in Dublin Fingal, the Green Party is in a cheery mood.

It’s not all quite as sewn up as it was for Ciarán Cuffe in the European elections back in May, but Joe O’Brien remains in serious contention to win his party’s first-ever by-election after promising-looking early tallies. 


The first result is in from Wexford and Fianna Fáil’s Malcom Byrne, who contested the European election for the party, has topped the poll with the largest share of first-preference votes. 

Byrne is around 3,000 votes ahead of Verona Murphy, who received around 9,500 first preference votes despite something of a controversial campaign



The elimination of Solidarity-People Before Profit candidate Kellie Sweeney has added to the lead of Mark Ward of Sinn Féin. 

As things stand, it looks like that lead might be enough to survive a challenge from Fine Gael’s Emer Higgins. 


The next count in Dublin Mid-West should be particularly interesting transfer-wise. 

The next person to be eliminated is the Green Party’s Peter Kavanagh – we might expect his votes to go to Paul Gogarty, a former Green TD. 

That could give Gogarty a significant boost, bringing him closer to Higgins and Ward. 


Here’s the latest from Cork – counts are coming in thick and fast now. 



We have our first count in Fingal and the Green Party’s Joe O’Brien is in the lead, with nearly 23% of the vote. 


Down in Cork, Micheál Martin has been chatting to the media. 

 Martin said whatever the result today, he was still working towards a springtime election. 

“This doesn’t change the trajectory of when an election will happen, I’m still looking at the springtime,” he told Cork’s 96FM. 

He said that if the Tories won the UK election as expected the current Brexit deal would likely go through at the end of January.

At that point Fianna Fáil will have lived up to its commitment of ensuring stability throughout the fraught Brexit negotiation process, Martin said, and the Dáil could begin winding down. 

“The 12th of April is a natural cut-off point for the parliamentary session,” he said.


We’re getting closer (relatively speaking) to a result in Cork. It does seem as if we’re heading towards a reasonably comfortable Fianna Fáil win. 



Joe O’Brien remains ahead of Lorraine Clifford-Lee by over 1,000 votes after the second count in Dublin Fingal. 



We’re still far away from the quota, but Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward remains well ahead of Emer Higgins in Dublin Mid-West. 


Here was the scene as Labour’s Joanna Tuffy, who was the TD in Dublin Mid-West until 2016, was eliminated from the race. 

The constituency is really shaping up to be one of the most exciting contests of the four by-elections. 

Back to Micheál Martin, who is understandably in a somewhat buoyant mood as his candidate looks set to win in Cork North-Central

Speaking to 96FM at the count centre earlier, Martin said the likely result was a welcome one for the party.

Martin said the grassroots effort in the area had been a major factor in the win.

“Padraig wouldn’t have been as well known in the city side of the constituency starting out here but by the time was over they knew who he was and that’s down to the strength of the campaign on the ground.

“He described it as part of the recovery and “journey of renewal” of Fianna Fáil in recent years, after the party’s vote collapsed in 2011 in the wake of the economic crash.

While it looks like it will be a solid victory, Martin can’t be too surprised that Padraig O’Sullivan is on course to win. As one local reporter told me several weeks ago, Cork North-Central is basically “Jack Lynch territory”.

To lose a seat held by Billy Kelleher for the party since 1997 would have been a major shock. 

In Dublin Fingal, Joe O’Brien has been basking in something of a miniature ‘green wave’. 

No one really thought the Green Party could win the race to take the seat vacated by Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly when she was elected to the European Parliament. 

Fingal Count 45 Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /


After Labour’s Joanna Tuffy’s votes were redistributed, Paul Gogarty has narrowed the gap on Fine Gael’s Emer Higgins. 


Malcom Byrne of Fianna Fáil remains ahead of Fine Gael’s Verona Murphy in Wexford. 



The Green Party’s Oliver Moran has been eliminated. Fianna Fáil remains in a comfortable position in the constituency.

Notably, Fine Gael’s Colm Burke has been pushed into third by Sinn Féin’s Thomas Gould. 




After the third count in Dublin Fingal, Gemma O’Doherty has been eliminated. Her 1,149 votes will be re-distributed, as the Green Party remains ahead. 

We still have a long way to go before we have a result, but the Green Party’s reputation for being transfer-friendly is holding strong so far. 


Charlie Flanagan has been speaking to the media about Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy, who is set to leave the Dáil to take up a new role in the EU. 

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said it is “incumbent” that fellow Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy answers questions about his Dáil attendance record over the past two years. 

It has emerged over the past week that Murphy has been largely absent from the Dáil as a result of a Brussels-based job with the European People’s Party, an EU political grouping of which Fine Gael is aligned with. 

The Irish Examiner reported earlier this week that the former junior minister was expected to announce his departure from the Dáil to take up a new EU role. 

You can read the full piece from’s Hayley Halpin here


Mark Ward is pulling away it seems, with a large and growing gap between him and Fine Gael’s Emer Higgins. 

Leo Varadkar is in the count centre and will probably be feeling less chirpy than Micheál Martin. 

Here’s how Dublin Mid-West looks now:


So how are things looking for Fine Gael? Put simply, not good.

In Dublin Mid-West, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been putting on a brave face. “We’re not conceding defeat,” he says. 

While he might remain hopeful that Emer Higgins can close the gap with Mark Ward, down in Wexford Verona Murphy seems to be accepting that she is unlikely to catch Malcolm Byrne. 

“I’m most impressed about the support I received from Fine Gael members,” she said. 

On her controversial comments, Murphy was keeping quiet: “I have apologised for those comments and that’s all I have to say on that.”

But she is adamant that she intends to run again in the general election. 

“This is a learning curve,” she said. 


Here’s the latest from the constituency.



Disappointment for Paul Gogarty as we enter the final stretch in the constituency. 


Padraig O’Sullivan is on course for victory, while Sinn Féin have also put in a strong performance. 


Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward is ahead by 1,400 votes, with Paul Gogarty’s votes to be re-distributed. 

This is really not what anyone was predicting in Dublin Mid-West, perhaps least of all Sinn Féin. 


Speaking to our reporter Rónán Duffy and other journalists, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been answering questions on the by-election and recent controversies. 

Varadkar also commented on Lisa Smith’s imminent return:

He also took questions on the scrutiny on Fine Gael’s Dara Murphy:

You can read more about that here.


No change, with Malcolm Byrne still ahead. Karin Dubsky and Johnny Mythen have been eliminated. 


Mary Lou McDonald is also in a good mood it seems. She’s arrived in the Dublin Mid-West count centre, where her party is causing something of an upset. 

She’s a fast learner, apparently. “I have learned a million lessons since the summer,” she says. 

Things weren’t looking too rosy for her party, which suffered significant losses in the local and European elections in May. 

Today, her party looks set to take a seat in Dublin and has performed well in Cork North-Central.

Standing alongside local TD and housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin, McDonald sounded like she had more reasons to be optimistic. 

We’re expecting a final result very soon in Dublin Mid-West.

Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward has won in Dublin Mid-West – the first victory in the by-elections. 

The win for the party is something of a surprise result. 

The seat was previously held by Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald, who was elected to the European Parliament in May. 

Here’s how things looked after that final count. 

From the very first tallies, Dublin Mid-West looked like it was set to be a nail biter. What was pitched as a relatively predictable Fine Gael victory on home turf – this being Frances Fitzgerald’s old seat – instead became a closely run battle. 

It raises questions about what Fine Gael does next and whether Emer Higgins will be a candidate in the constituency come next year. 


As for Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward, he has said his victory is a rejection of austerity. “No one gave us a chance,” he says. 

And the result is a genuine surprise. The win is without a doubt a major boost for Mary Lou McDonald after those disappointing results back in May. 


And following immediately on from that drama in Dublin Mid-West, I can confirm that… no one has yet been elected in Dublin Fingal. 

Dean Mulligan of Independents 4 Change has been eliminated, with Joe O’Brien of the Green Party still looking odds on to take the seat. 



We’re close to a result in Cork North-Central after Fine Gael’s Colm Burke was eliminated. 

Burke had been expected to challenge for the seat but was instead beaten into third place by Sinn Féin. 

While we await the results from other constituencies, here’s a quick summary of how things stand:

Dublin-Mid-West: Mark Ward has been elected. It was a surprise victory for Sinn Féin, who snatched the seat from Fine Gael. 

Dublin Fingal: Joe O’Brien is at the top of the poll and appears on course to secure a major win for the Green Party.

Cork-North Central: Fianna Fáil is practically guaranteed a seat in the constituency. It means Pádraig O’Sullivan will replace Billy Kelleher as a TD. 

Wexford: Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne is currently in the lead and seems likely to remain there. Fine Gael’s Verona Murphy, who received serious criticism for comments made throughout the campaign, has all but conceded – but she says she wants to run again for the party.

MALCOM BYRNE II2A9604 Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne looks set for victory in Wexford. Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

Fine Gael’s James Reilly – a former health minister – is looking likely to be eliminated soon in Dublin Fingal. 

“It’s a disappointing outcome,” Reilly told reporters. 

He said he didn’t regret running. “I still have a lot of energy and I’m interested in the future,” he said. 

It remains to be seen if he’ll still be on the ticket come the general election next year. 

fg 209 Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

Finance minister Paschal Donohoe has been on RTÉ News discussing the results from the by-elections. 

On Dublin Mid-West candidate Emer Higgins, Donohoe was positive. He said he was “hopeful for her prospects in the future”. 

On Verona Murphy, he was more circumspect. Asked about her desire to stand again for the party in Wexford, he was non-committal. 

“Every candidate is over the view that they should be the candidate,” he said. 

He said Murphy had many “qualities” and praised the “vigour” of her campaign

But he said the party would review the status of every candidate.

“Her status is no different to any other,” he said. “It is up to the party.”

VERONA MURPHY 758A8449 Verona Murphy was a controversial candidate in Wexford.

The drama is far from over – there’s talk over a possible re-count in Wexford. 

It seems Labour and Fine Gael are fighting over who will end up coming second in the constituency. 


Verona Murphy has been eliminated in the constituency.

Labour’s Geroge Lawlor has pushed Fine Gael into third – an impressive result for the party in leader Brendan Howlin’s home constituency. 

There is only a difference of 71 votes between Lawlor and Murphy, hence suggestions that there might be a recount. 


Fianna Fáil’s Padraig O’Sullivan has been elected in Cork North-Central. 

This has been something of a certainty for a while. The constituency is something of a bastion for Fianna Fáil and it would have been a major shock if O’Sullivan had failed to succeed Billy Kelleher. 


No one has yet been elected in Dublin Fingal, but as expected Fine Gael’s James Reilly has been eliminated. 

With three candidates left, it’ll be interesting to see where his transfers go. 

As a reminder, Joe O’Brien of the Green Party is currently set to be elected, with Fianna Fáil Lorraine Clifford Lee in second and Labour’s Duncan Smith in third. 

The election of Padraig O’Sullivan is the first of a possible two victories for Fianna Fáil before the night is out. 

However, a victory for Malcolm Byrne in Wexford all depends on where Verona Murphy’s transfers go – which is somewhat difficult to predict. 

This means that success for former European election candidate Byrne isn’t the certainty it was only an hour ago. 

No word of a recount yet, in case you were wondering. 

While we wait on more results from Dublin Fingal and Wexford, a quick word on turnout. 

The figures were a record-low and it’s hard to properly assess why. Some have been quick to blame disenchantment with politics, while others have pointed to everything from the weather to the timing of the Late Late Toy Show. 

University College Cork’s Theresa Reidy says we shouldn’t necessarily blame voters, in a Twitter thread that’s worth reading. 

As questions continue over Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy’s Dáil attendance record over the past two years, he’s just released a statement:

“Following recent media and political commentary, I wish to state that at all times I have been compliant with rules for attendance at Leinster House,” he says. 

“I will continue to provide any evidence required to the appropriate authorities. I attended the required 120 days at Leinster House in 2018 and should achieve the requisite number for 2019 and will make the statutory return when due,” the statement continues.

Murphy insists it’s simply another occupation. “Many of my colleagues in Dáil Éireann do so – some colleagues have legal, medical, business, farming etc interests,” he states. 

Malcolm Byrne has been elected for Fianna Fáil in Wexford. 

This isn’t a huge shock, but it’s a boost for Fianna Fáil and another embarrassing result for Fine Gael after Verona Murphy was pushed into third place.



No one has been elected in Dublin Fingal, with Duncan Smith eliminated. As has been clear for most of the day, the Green Party’s Joe O’Brien seems likely now to be elected. 

O’Brien is on 9,183 votes, while Fianna Fáil’s Lorraine Clifford Lee is on 6,547. 

Now, count centre staff will transfer Smith’s 6,300 votes. 

This does mean that a result is imminent – the final seat to be filled in the by-election. 

Here’s how things stand in Dublin Fingal: 


Speaking after his election, Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne said:

Racism and the language of division and hate has no place in Wexford politics. Wexford is better than that and Ireland is better than that.

In her speech following her defeat, Verona Murphy seemed determined to run again in the constituency. 

If she does so under a Fine Gale banner remains to be seen. 

It’s been something of a strange by-election count day.

Incredibly low turnout, a surprise Sinn Féin resurgence and a ‘green wave’ largely confined to the Dublin Fingal constituency.

Every major opposition party can take positives from today’s results, especially Labour. Having taken second place in Wexford is a significant achievement, while Duncan Smith received 15% of first preference votes in Dublin Fingal. 

While not directly comparable, for reference Labour only received 10% in the same constituency in 2016. 

If Sinn Féin is taking lessons from the by-election, they might want to look at Dublin Fingal. 

In 2016, incumbent TD Louise O’Reilly only received 8.7% of first preference votes, just getting the fifth seat. 

In this by-election, Ann Graves only received 5.3% of first preferences. 

Once again, general elections and by-elections are not really comparable – but it still could prove a difficult constituency for the party next year. 



The Green Party’s Joe O’Brien has been elected as a TD. This is the first-ever by-election victory for the party. 

This result has been nearly a foregone conclusion all day, but it still comes as something of a surprise with no one predicting such a clear Green win. 

It means that all four by-election seats have now been filled. 


And for anyone celebrating the election of Joe O’Brien, here’s the campaign leaflet from the first-ever by-election contested by the Green Party in 1983. 

So with Dublin Fingal filled, counting is now over in each of the four by-election constituencies.

Fine Gael won’t have long to lick their wounds, as there’s the small matter of a confidence vote in housing minister Eoghan Murphy to contend with in just three days’ time.

Despite today’s result, the government is expected to survive that vote and, all going to plan as far as FG and FF are concerned, we should all be back here next spring for the general election.

On that cheery note, we’re going to say goodbye – but keep an eye on for the rest of the night and the weekend for reaction to today’s results.   

taoiseach 37 Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

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