Thursday, 14 July 1932
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Anthony: Before the Bill is received for final consideration I just want, as on a previous stage of the Bill, to protest against an injustice that is sought to be perpetrated in this Bill on a most deserving class in the community. I refer to the class of workers and other who have during a long period of years subscribed through the agency of insurance companies or of trade unions to secure for themselves at the end of a period something by way of annuity. A very large number of persons in the Free State have contributed through the agencies I have suggested so as to secure for themselves in their old age some little competence in the way of superannuation. These sums vary from 4/- to 15/-and in a few cases to £1 per week. These deserving persons are excluded from the aegis of this Bill. They are not entitled, or will not be entitled under the Bill, to the full old-age pension or, indeed, any portion of the old age pension provided by the State, whereas another class of the community, the well-to-do farmer or the well-to-do shopkeeper, may under the provisions of the Bill hand over to his son or daughter, his farm, shop or business and he will be enabled to enjoy the full benefits of the old age pension provided for under the Bill.
I made a protest in the early stages of the Bill against that. I repeat that protest, and I want to suggest that you are penalising a very deserving class of the community. On the other hand, you are putting a premium on certain people who have made little or no provision for their old age. Of course, it may be argued that persons in this country, workers particularly, cannot out of their own very slender resources make any kind of provision for old age through the agencies I have mentioned, insurance companies or trade unions, but there is a not negligible number of persons who do make that provision. They make very many sacrifices to do that and this is their reward. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he could not see his way to include these persons because a good deal of misunderstanding appears to have arisen in the course of the debate on an amendment introduced by Deputy Mulcahy. Deputy Mulcahy endeavoured by way of an amendment to secure for the persons I have indicated  the full benefit or even the partial benefit which ought to accrue to them as a result of the operations of this Bill.
General Mulcahy: I should like to correct a misunderstanding on the part of Deputy Anthony. There has been no misunderstanding on this Bill, good, bad or indifferent. The Parliamentary Secretary and Deputy Norton were determined that they were not going to do this for the workers. There is no misunderstanding on their part.
Mr. Anthony: I agree. Possibly I might have said that there was a misunderstanding or perhaps a misapprehension in the minds of some Deputies in the House. I qualify it by saying that. We have at any rate the persons for whom I speak and I may say I speak for a not inconsiderable number of persons in the Free State. This might appeal to members of the Labour Party for these persons are, in the main, members of trade unions who, over a very long period of years, subscribe week by week, month by month, and quarter by quarter to a fund in various trade unions which enables them to draw a weekly sum of anything from 4/- to 15/- per week.
Mr. Anthony: But 15/- would. I should like to take this matter up with Deputy Curran either here or some place else and explain to him fully the provisions which these unions make for their members. It may be some information to Deputy Curran who, I take it, takes some interest in the working classes. There are a number of such unions—the National Union of Vehicle Builders, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Amalgamated Transport Union, the Typographical Association, the Dublin Typographical Provident Association and several others.
Mr. Anthony: The Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers, Carpenters, Joiners, etc. That is but to mention a few of these organisations. Many  of the organisations, as is evident from the election returns, have supported Fianna Fáil because if we had a working class movement in this country, a real, live working class movement, the Labour Party to-day, of which I was proud to be a member at one time, would instead of numbering seven, number 67 or 77. I want to emphasise and to explain to people of the mentality of Deputy Curran that there are numbers of deserving working men, who have led very frugal lives, who have scraped and pinched in order to provide some little thing at the end of their days.
Perhaps this will be something that might make some slight appeal to any lingering or latent sympathy that remains in the members of the official Labour Party. These members, in the main—I want to qualify it by these three or four words—who are in receipt of superannuation from these unions, when they qualify some time about the age of 60, retire from active work in their particular spheres of activity. In other words, a member of the Typographical Association, a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, or of any other union I have mentioned— there may be one or two exceptions— is compelled after having forty years' membership, possibly thirty-five in other cases, to retire. If he accepts a superannuation allowance from his union he is compelled to retire from that particular branch of industry. It is an inducement to him to get away from that industry and to make room for a younger man, in many cases to make room for a younger man who has a wife and family dependent on him. I do feel that this is one blot on this Old Age Pensions Bill. I intend to vote for the Bill if it is put to a division, because it contains many excellent provisions. I am not going to condemn the whole Bill because of this blot. I accept it as one of the best gestures this Government has ever made to the working class people of the country. There is that one great blot on it. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he would examine the question at a later stage to see if he could include the persons for whom I speak, and for whom, by the way,  I am authorised to speak without seeking that authorisation at all. Since the discussions have taken place on the Bill during its various stages, previous to this, persons have come to me and have written to me, applauding my action, if you like, and acquiescing in everything I said on behalf of these deserving people I have mentioned, and because of that, if for nothing else—and I am not making this a Party matter, I am going to vote, if there is a division, with the Government, because I believe, as I have already said, that this is a thing that was long looked for and eagerly awaited, and is now accepted by all Parties in the Dáil as a very good contribution to social legislation—I would ask the Minister, if he is not able to do it now, if the ordinary procedure does not enable him to do it now, would he, at some later stage, introduce an amending Bill, in order to embrace the class of deserving worker that I have mentioned to him in, at least, two speeches.
There is another aspect which, I think, should appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary, who, I know, takes a very active and lively interest in his Department. He cannot deny that, from the point of view of civic spirit and civic responsibility—a thing that is very sadly lacking in this country to-day—the Minister should encourage, rather than discourage, the thrifty and frugal citizen of the State for whom I make this appeal. Again, I ask him—I do not want to bind him down to words—will he consider at some future date the advisability, if not the prudence, of introducing legislation by means of an amending Bill which would embrace the deserving class of the community whose cause I have been advocating since I came into Dáil Eireann?
Mr. M. Hayes: This question which Deputy Anthony has dealt with, and which we do not intend to labour, has arisen owing to the fact that Deputy Mulcahy had an amendment down which he could not move, from the point of view of order, and that we had certain discussions on the Money Resolution in Committee, but, apparently,  the Parliamentary Secretary has decided that he cannot do anything about the point then made to him. Before we pass the Report Stage I would like to make this point. There is now money available to give additional benefits under the Old Age Pensions code, and it is quite clear that, in giving that money, the Parliamentary Secretary has completely forgotten two classes of persons—the class of person who, although 70 years of age, can still earn some money and would like to earn some money, and the class of person, to whom Deputy Anthony has made allusion, who, owing to having paid subscriptions to a trade union, for a period mostly of not less than 40 years, is entitled to superannuation benefit from that union or from any other source. In the case of a person who either earns money or gets money from a trade union in that particular way, roughly speaking, the facts are these: that the amount of money which he can get, all told, including old age pension, cannot exceed 16/-, that is to say, that if he earns any more than 6/-, or gets benefit from a trade union amounting to more than 6/-, there is a corresponding deduction made from his old age pension. I want to suggest that these people should have been thought of when the Minister had the money to give away under the old age pension code, and when he was lavishing money on people, who, no matter what the valuation of the farm or of the house in which they live is, may get the full old age pension. As I understand it, the position in Dublin is this, that a person of 70 years of age, living with a relative, a son, say, with an income of even £2,000 a year, can get the full old age pension. If, attached to that house, there is a coach-house, let for, say, 4/- a week to an old man who makes 10/- a week as a jobbing gardener, although he is over 70 years of age, that old man cannot get the full old age pension.
Mr. Hayes: I am not as simple as the Parliamentary Secretary tries to make me out. Neither of us is so simple and we will go ahead on that basis now. I said that a person living in a house with his son, who had an income of £2,000 a year, could get the full old age pension. Is not that correct?
Mr. Hayes: He could get the full old age pension and an old jobbing gardener of over 70 years of age, working in that house and making, say, 10/-a week, cannot get the full old age pension. A charwoman working in that house and kept, to a certain extent, for charity and getting, say, 8/- or 10/- a week would have a corresponding deduction made from her old age pension, and she would have to pay 4/-or, perhaps, 5/- for a room. If there is money to be given for old age pensions, this is the class of person that should be thought of, either in the town or country, and what I want to suggest is, that the Bill is based upon the giving of money to people who might deserve it, but it forgets people who are undoubtedly more deserving, both in the town and country, people who are 70 years of age who do not want to live, and who cannot live, in the nature of things, on 10/- a week and who wish to augment their income. The Bill is not going to help them and if the Parliamentary Secretary has money to give away, as, apparently, he has, he might have provided in the Bill that one could earn 10/-, say, a week and still get the full old age pension. The figure at present is only 6/- and he also might have provided that people who get superannuation benefits up to 10/- could still get the full pension. The figure at present is 6/-, and what he has done shows a scandalous disregard and forgetfulness of the ordinary working people in town and country.
Mr. Brasier: I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, at any future stage, he might be able to deal with these disabilities. There is one particular class to which I would like to draw attention——
Dr. Ward: There is not any real point in this amendment of Deputy Good, and I think the Deputy realises that. I do not think he intends to press it. The Bill provides that where a person during any absence abroad contributes to the support or upkeep of a dependent relative, such absence shall not count as absence for the purpose of determining residence. Deputy Good wants to put in the word “temporary” so that the phrase will read “any temporary absence,” but, in the very nature of the thing, such absence is temporary absence, because if it were permanent absence, the person would not come back at all. I think it would be a foolish amendment and it certainly would not have the effect that Deputy Good desires.
Mr. Good: I am sorry the Parliamentary Secretary cannot see his way to accept this amendment. “Temporary absence” is defined in the sub-section attaching to Section 2 as a period not exceeding six months. The extraordinary feature in this Bill is that a man can qualify for this pension and for residence in this country when he is really not a resident, provided that he sends a contribution of anything at all he likes, say, once a year, to some dependent in this State. It may be a contribution of merely 20/- at Christmas time. That is sufficient apparently to count as residence in this particular State and to qualify for a pension in the State though he may be at the time living in another country. I think that is hardly fair. It is sufficient burden on this country to support our own nationals, who are resident here and non-nationals who have been resident here for the period set out in Section 2. It is unfair that that should be allowable  in the case of a person who is non-resident in the country and who only sends a contribution to a dependent in the State. I should have liked if the Parliamentary Secretary thought it necessary for the protection of the taxpayer that some qualification should be put on this contribution for some particular period.
Mr. Brasier: A disability which I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to remove is that incurred either by the father or mother of an ex-serviceman who was killed during the Great War and who in consequence may have a small pension of a few shillings a week. That pension is counted against these people when they apply for an old age pension, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to remove that. It is very hard that a small allowance like that should count against them when they have already suffered serious loss.
General Mulcahy: Commenting on the suggestion of Deputy Hayes that a person over 70 years of age, having an income of his own, and living with a son who might have an income of £2,000 per year, could under this Bill get an old age pension, the Parliamentary Secretary agreed that that was right, and then added a phrase to this effect: “But he might have no right to be there.” I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary what bearing that remark has on this Bill or on the provisions which will be in black and white in the Act under which old age pensions will be given in future, or whether this remark has simply reference to the new Christian social philosophy that is going to be operated in the near future.
Mr. Coburn: I should like to say a few words in connection with an amendment which has been ruled out of order, as it affected members of  trade unions who subscribe to a fund which would allow them a few shillings when they retire from work. There are a great many of these men in the Free State at present, and it is hardly fair that they should be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary must be aware that a very large number of men who work on the railways contribute to a superannuation fund. They retire from work on the railway at 65, and when they come to be 70 years make application for the old age pension. The allowance which they receive from the fund to which they have subscribed is taken into account, and in the majority of cases the old age pension is refused altogether. When you contrast the position of these men with, say, small farmers, there is a very great discrimination as regards the conditions governing the pension in the two cases. Again, in regard to the point raised by Deputy Brasier, I have come across very sad cases of the type referred to. Take, for instance, the mother of an ex-soldier in receipt of a pension of £1 per week who, when she becomes 70 years of age, receives notification from the pension authorities in Great Britain that her pension will be reduced by the amount of the old age pension to which the authorities in Great Britain think she would be entitled. When that particular woman applies for the old age pension here she is asked what her means are, and she informs the pensions officer that she has been in receipt of £1 per week from the British Government, who, as I pointed out already, had cut her pension by 10/-. It is a case of being between two stools, and the person making application for a pension falls to the ground. In cases of that nature some allowance should be made so that the people so affected would receive their pensions here, as the pension from the British Government is reduced by the amount of the old age pension to which they should be entitled.
Mr. Corry: I should like to point out in reference to the case of railway men that it has been brought to my notice that the railway company take into consideration when a man is retiring the fact that he would get his old age pension and that has been used to  deprive men of their just rights in regard to superannuation. The railway company should be compelled to pay fair superannuation without taking into consideration the fact that the State would give a pension. As regards the ex-servicemen, I should like to point out that during the last ten years fathers and mothers of men who died on active service from 1918 to 1921 got no pension or no consideration whatever from the late Government and the Minister ought to make special provision in these cases. I have not much sympathy with anybody getting £1 a week pension.
Mr. Corry: I think that when a Government takes advantage of the fact that another State is going to pay an old age pension to a person for the purpose of saving their own money by cutting the pension the Parliamentary Secretary should not give way. If nobody was going to take advantage of this Government's generosity in this matter or this Government's sense of fair play, I would not mind so much. If it is a case of another Government taking advantage of the generosity of this State in the matter of old age pensions for the purpose of cutting the allowance they have already given to a person, and if it is a matter of a railway company doing likewise, I would ask the Minister to take very serious notice of it.
Mr. Brasier: Deputy Coburn referred to quite a different class of case to what I have in mind. What I directed attention to was where a father or mother would be in receipt of a very small allowance. My point was that that is taken into consideration and deducted from the old age pension.
Mr. Kennedy: Might I suggest to Deputy Coburn and those interested in the welfare of British ex-service men in the Free State that they should  make the necessary representations to the British authorities to end the grievance they have talked about? They should make representation that when the dependents of those who were killed in the Great War become of pensionable age they should not be deprived of their pensions. What the Deputy says is quite right. I suggest to him and those interested in the dependents of men who lost their lives in the Great War that full pressure should be brought to bear to make the British Government pay their just debts to those people, not-withstanding whether they reach the age of seventy or have one pound a week, or whatever it may be, for the rest of their lives.
Mr. Coburn: I stated long before this that the Government of this State should take the matter up. There are several other cases as well that might be given consideration. It is not a question of British ex-soldiers; it is purely a question of justice.
Mr. Goulding: With reference to the point made by Deputy Mulcahy, on another occasion I remember asking if it was a fact that a member of a wealthy household, irrespective of the number of wealthy relatives he may possess, would be entitled to a pension. I understood from the Parliamentary Secretary at that time that that was not so; that there was some limit to the means possessed by the members of the family.
Mr. Goulding: Deputy Mulcahy has taken advantage of the occasion to refer to the Government's Christian social policy. Surely that is not a matter that should be sneered at? If there is an effort made to introduce it here, it should, I think, deserve every consideration from the other side.
General Mulcahy: I was referring to the suggestion that there is a possibility that a father with no income has  no right to be in the house of his son who may have an income of £200,000 a year. Let me point out that £200,000 is the same as £2,000 from the point of view of this Bill.
Mr. Curran: A rather strange attitude is adopted by some Deputies on this question of old age pensions. Deputy Anthony declared that he considered this Bill is fully 200 per cent. a better Bill than was submitted by the last Government. I wonder was it for propaganda purposes or otherwise that Deputy Anthony mentioned that the Parliamentary Secretary should consider the people who might be getting 4/-, 6/- or 10/- a week pension. The railway men, even under the last Government, were receiving 10/- a week and they were getting the old age pension. It is news to me that they are going to be affected. Deputy Coburn referred to a woman with £1 a week. He said that sum was cut to 10/- a week by the British Government and the woman is not getting the old age pension. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary will say that anyone with 4/-, 6/-, 8/- or 10/- will be debarred from getting a pension. It may be taken for granted that anything I can do for the working classes I will do. I believe this Bill is 500 per cent. better than any Bill presented by the late Government. Under the last regime they even reduced old age pensions to 5/- and there was not a word from Deputy Anthony. Now, when there is a good Bill introduced, all sorts of propaganda are used. I will ask the Parliamentary Secretary to state if it is true that people with 4/-to  10/- a week will be debarred from getting a pension.
Dr. Ward: I think most of the points raised at this stage have been discussed on the earlier stages of the Bill. The arguments that have been advanced by Deputy Hayes and Deputy Mulcahy and other Deputies in favour of the amendments now suggested have already been dealt with and, I think, dealt with effectively.
Dr. Ward: Of course it is quite understandable, when a Bill of this sort is introduced and is hailed by Deputies on all sides of the House as being a great advance in social legislation, that Deputies who are particularly strong on the political line must find some avenue of attack. They must, for political Party purposes, find some avenue of attack, but I am sure every reasonably-minded man here, regardless of Party interests, admits that this is a good Bill, that there will be a good return for the expenditure and that the most deserving classes in the community will benefit. The politicians do not like that because there is, probably, considerable loss of prestige on the part of the political Party which refused to give effect to a much less generous Bill than this. It comes well from Deputy Mulcahy to lament over people who have £1 a week already. It comes well from the man who resigned his position as Minister for Local Government rather than give effect to a Bill that sought to enact that charity would not be taken into consideration in estimating the means of a claimant.
Dr. Ward: It comes well from Deputy Mulcahy to raise his voice now. He is the man who insisted that poor, unfortunate people when they entered a poor law institution should go there as paupers and should forfeit their pensions.
Dr. Ward: We know quite well Deputy Mulcahy's attitude towards the poor. We have had an opportunity of observing his attitude during the ten years when his Government was in office. We know how to estimate the amount of sincerity behind Deputy Mulcahy's arguments on behalf of the people who are not included under this Bill. I claim that this is a generous measure, as generous as this country can afford under present conditions. I would be glad to give every person over 70 years a retiring allowance of 20/- or 30/- a week if the country could afford it. I am satisfied that this is as generous a measure as we can give at the present time. It was suggested to-day and on previous occasions that a person in receipt of a gratuitous pension, in receipt of a pension from a trade union, a railway company or other employer—in receipt of a gratuitous or contributory pension—is not in any better position under this Bill than before the Bill was introduced. Now if that suggestion or if that idea is generally believed by the Deputies who have been debating this question, they have not read the Bill or have not studied it. The Deputies who are concerned about this particular class of pension are to remember this: That under the old age pensions laws as they stand and as they will stand until this Bill is passed, a person who has any gratuitous pension whatever and who gets food, clothing or shelter from any source cannot get an old age pension, because under the present law which  was administered, and the amendment to which was resisted by Deputy Mulcary, and I cannot say so much about Deputy Hayes——
Dr. Ward: Deputy Anthony must know, Deputy Mulcahy must know and Deputy Hayes must know—and I come to the conclusion, after very careful study, that Deputy Hayes has a very shrewd mind—they must all know that by taking into account any benefits enjoyed by a claimant, and estimating the yearly value of it, that was sufficient to exclude all the class of pensioners concerned and about whom they are so disturbed at the present time, from getting any pension whatsoever. We are repealing that section of the old age pensions code; no longer will the benefits of food, clothing or shelter to which a person is not entitled be taken into consideration, and the result is that a person who is getting food, clothing or shelter and who is drawing 6/- a week gratuitous pension will still be entitled to the full 10/- old age pension. If that is not a material improvement of the Old Age Pensions Act on this particular clause that is under discussion here, then I do not understand the Bill perhaps as well as some of the people who are discussing it. On the one hand it is complained that this Bill is not generous enough, and on the other hand it is complained that it is too generous. The point has been laboured here by Deputy Mulcahy and  other Deputies that if the old age pensioner happen to have a son or daughter or distant relative who gets on well in the world and who has a comfortable home, that there is a moral obligation on that son or daughter to maintain that old age pensioner in his or her old age.
Dr. Ward: Deputy Mulcahy said that we were going to expend money on giving old age pensions to persons who have wealthy relatives. What we are doing is to provide pensions for persons over 70 years of age who have no means in their own right. I maintain it is the duty of the State—leaving outside altogether what Deputy Mulcahy said is a moral duty on such relatives—to look after the destitute poor. If wealthy relatives come to their assistance afterwards it is all to the good. I cannot hold out any hope to Deputy Anthony that the particular point that he has raised at this stage of the Bill can be met more generously than it is being met at the present time. If the Deputy gives full consideration to the reactions of the repeal of the section that insists that account will be taken of the yearly benefit enjoyed by the claimant, and if he examines the far-reaching implication of that in relation to the people for whom he is concerned, he will find that their material position is also considerably improved under the present Bill.
General Mulcahy: On that question we have already pointed out that the amount of the old age pension paid at present is more than one-eighth of the total tax revenue of this country and that with the expenditure that this country is labouring under it cannot afford to give more than that at the present time. That is that. The Parliamentary Secretary complained that some of us called this Bill too generous on the one hand and not generous enough on the other hand, and he talks about giving pensions to persons who have no means whatever. There are things in this Bill that cannot stand; things that under the present Ministry's administration of this Bill must, I feel, be changed and I just want to throw two cases against one another in order to emphasise that statement.
A person of 70 years of age having a lump sum of £335 approximately, which he can spend in any way he wants at any time during the rest of his life may live with, say, a son in conditions of considerable wealth and considerable comfort, say in a house where the son has an income of £5,000 a year. That person with that lump sum of money and living under those conditions, but having no other income that can be proved will be entitled to get the full 10/- a week old age pension under this Bill. On the other hand, a worker, a member of some of those trade unions about which Deputy Anthony has spoken, living in the conditions in which workers in Dublin live, drawing, say, a pension of 10/- a week, and that apart from the ordinary trade union subscription he has over a period of forty years paid in separate subscriptions in order to become entitled to that 10/- a week, that person will not get the 10/- a week pension under this Bill. His pension will be reduced to 6/- a week. These two cases emphasise the over-generous and the under-generous aspects of this particular Bill. While the Parliamentary Secretary may get these two cases into one Bill, under any kind of reasonable or common sense administration of the law a situation like that cannot be allowed to last.
Mr. Coburn: I would like to say in  answer to the Parliamentary Secretary in regard to his remarks about members of a trades union who have a small pension that he was not quite correct in saying that the present Bill improves the position of such people. I take it even under the old Act a person in receipt of 6/- a week got a pension of 10/- and there was little or no consideration given to the matter of food, clothing or shelter. May I refer to the type of man who is in receipt of 12/-a week from his trade union out of the funds to which he has subscribed over a period of 35 or 40 years? That man will only receive 4/- a week under the present Bill to bring up the maximum amount allowed to 16/- per week. That is the position as I understand it. On the other hand, people who may have large sums of money in bank can receive the full ten shillings a week, but the man who has been thrifty, who has been an asset to the State, and built up its industries by working hard and rearing a family, when he comes to 70 years of age and applies for a pension, because he is no longer able to pursue his work, he will not receive the full amount. That is the complaint I have to make on behalf of a large number of decent workers and on behalf of members of trade unions and members of the N.U.R. on the railways of the Free State.
Mr. Anthony: Would the Parliamentary Secretary consider the advisability, when this Bill has been in operation for some time, of dealing with the representations that were made to him, and introducing an amending Bill which would include the class I indicated? There is another class of citizen I would like to call his attention to.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should remember that this is the Fifth Stage, and that discussion should therefore be confined to what is in the Bill, and not to what the Deputy might desire to put into it.
Mr. Anthony: There are certain of these cases that I mentioned in the Bill. Would the Parliamentary Secretary consider the case of persons in  receipt of small pensions from employers apart from trade unions? The Parliamentary Secretary has not dealt with that class. At some later stage would he be prepared to introduce legislation to deal with these persons?
Mr. Corry: Deputy Mulcahy complained that the Vote for old age pensions amounted to one-eighth of the total revenue of this State. If the policy previously pursued in this country succeeded in driving out the young men, and leaving a large number of old people here, that is not our fault. I consider it extraordinary for Deputy Mulcahy to complain that one-eighth of our total revenue is going towards the support of the aged and infirm, while the Executive Council of which he was a member, paid 5¼ millions over to the British Government for nothing.
Dr. Ward: I must say that I am not convinced by the case made by Deputy Anthony to-day, or made on previous stages, that people who have gratuities, or who contributed towards pensions for their old age, are not treated sufficiently generously in this Bill. I would be glad to have any representations the Deputy might be able to make. I am always open to conviction, but to do so would require a better case than the Deputy put forward.
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