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127 Full Time Jobs Could Be Lost At Thurles Shopping Centre

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand”

Excerpt from a speech made by Abraham Lincoln (Later to become President of the United States of America), on June 16th, 1858.

Thurles Shopping Centre in Co. Tipperary could be under threat of closure by January 1st, 2020.

Once again Tipperary Co. Council has ‘bounced’ the town of Thurles into the national spotlight and again for all the wrong reasons. Previously it was six new uninhabited ‘state of the art’ houses erected for members of the Travelling Community; latter costing in excess of €2 million, when High Court costs are added.

Now the High Court is involved yet again and the future of Thurles Shopping Centre in Co. Tipperary could be under threat of closure. That is according to its owners GL Ireland ICAV, latter who purchased the shopping centre at Slievenamon Road, here in the town, just some four years ago.

Owners GL Ireland claim that the Thurles Shopping Centre will have to close if it is forced to comply with three enforcement notices issued against it by Tipperary County Council, in respect of conditions attached to the planning permission already granted to the shopping centre’s previous owners back in 2007.

From what we can gather the enforcement notices received relate to, (1) the undertaking of landscaping works on lands the current owners claim is not their property; (2) the removal and repositioning of external windows and doors, and the construction of significant structures including a maintenance building and a bicycle park; and finally (3) the closure of the only entrance which the shopping centre currently uses and has used for the past 12 years, in the delivery of goods and services.

Same notices have now resulted in a challenge being brought by the owners before the High Court. Permission to bring this challenge against Tipperary Co. Council was granted on an ex-parte application basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan. [An ex parte application is a request made to a court where only the party making the request is represented and the other side is not given any notice.]

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan has now placed a stay on Tipperary Co. Council officials, from taking any further steps in respect of their enforcement notices; pending the outcome of this expected High Court action, which is understood will be heard during the month of December next.

Thurles residents are at pains to understand why the owners paid possibly €10 – €15million Euros in 2015, for a building containing several nationally recognised retail stores e.g. Elverys, Boots, Carraig Donn, Dunnes Stores, Easons, Paul Byron, Costa, Specsavers, etc, a Multiplex Cinema and had also recently attracted Thurles Post Office; without first checking that all planning was in keeping with the requirements of Tipperary Co. Councillors, prior to their purchase.

In the words of William Shakespere “Ay, there’s the rub” – Thurles Post Office

Blame for the possible loss of the 127 full time jobs currently enjoyed in the Thurles Shopping Centre, is now being blamed, rightly or wrongly, on 3 local factions – Thurles Chamber of Commerce; local Municipal District Councillors and those involved in the recent S.O.S (Save Our Square) Campaign. This latter unsuccessful campaign, which also came to national attention this year, saw some Liberty Square retailers attempting to prevent Thurles Post Office from moving to the Thurles Shopping Centre.

Speaking to some consumers today, same were critical of retailers operating in Liberty Square, whom they stated, “closed their premises during lunch hour (1:00pm – 2:00pm) forcing same consumers to shop outside the town”.

When asked regarding the loss of foot fall due to the absence of An Post from Liberty Square, one housewife stated “Liberty Square, Thurles contains 3 banks and within another 30 metres, on Parnell Street, one busy Credit Union office. Some 6,000 students attending schools alight on this square daily, and yet the shop keepers appear to be caught in a 19th century time warp, protected by a Chamber of Commerce, who for the last 20 years have totally failed each and every business. How many of you men ever tried to push a buggy containing a child through the doors of the old An Post offices, I wonder? If they had they might have understood why An Post moved”, she concluded.

One elderly gentleman waiting on a train to Limerick Junction wisely remarked to me on this issue, “The Chamber and local Councillors have successfully divided Thurles town into two halves. People fail to understand that when you remove one or more main components from a body, it dies. Tipperary Co. Councillors permitted the introduction of parking charges, resulting in the extermination of footfall on Liberty Square. This in turn lead to the destruction of Liberty Square retailing. Now, if permitted same individuals will destroy Thurles Shopping Centre also. A house divided against itself, cannot stand and Councillors responsible should resign”, he concluded.

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Plans For Thurles Erin Foods Site Formally Confirmed

Go Ahead Granted For Erin Food Site Development.

Independent TD Mr Michael Lowry has confirmed that the time period to appeal against Tipperary County Council’s decision to the granting of planning on the former Erin Foods Site, for a new Retail Outlet, has now closed without objection. Planning is therefore formally confirmed by An Board Pleanala for this site, together with a 60,000 sq.ft. ‘Business and Innovation Centre’.

Lidl’s New Retail Outlet

Lidl, latter who had submitted the planning application last December, will now immediately commence the demolition phase of their initial proposal, which will involve a 10-12 week program. This will be followed by construction in the coming months.

Business and Innovation Centre

Mr Lowry, speaking to Thurles.Info today, welcomed the news, which he stated “Heralded a bright and progressive future for the town. This investment and state of the art development will generate jobs, wealth and create a massive boost to the local economy.”

He further added, “The Erin Foods site project will also facilitate the future development of the town providing the first phase of the long-awaited Thurles Inner Relief road, which will link Slievenamon Road to the Mill Road. This link road will afford the opportunity to access lands for commercial and residential development while also facilitating the proposed future expansion of Mary Immaculate College. (Note: latter formally St. Patricks College).

New accommodation and facilities in Thurles to attract business and Industry

Deputy Lowry also confirmed to Thurles.Info that Tipperary County Council have reached agreement, exchanged contracts and are about to close on the purchase of land in excess of 20 acres at Clongour, Thurles for a Business Development Campus.

These lands will be then be serviced with sewerage, water, telecommunications and road infrastructure. The lands will be developed by Tipperary County Council, as serviced sites and available for marketing by the Council, Enterprise Ireland and I.D.A.

Thurles had lost out on inward investment because it did not have accommodation and facilities to attract business and Industry.

The combination of these projects should now have a formative impact on the economy of Thurles. It will create opportunities to attract business / enterprise and during the process deliver much needed jobs and economic regeneration within the town.

After a period of stagnation these developments should now herald a new bright beginning and positive future for Thurles.

“We can now look forward with optimism and with greater confidence in the future of Thurles”, the Deputy concluded.

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Good News For Scoil Chormaic, Cashel

Scoil Chormaic, Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

Michael Lowry TD – Funding of €162,000 secured for structural work at Scoil Chormaic, Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

Independent TD Deputy Michael Lowry has confirmed today that following successful representations, he has secured significant funding to undertake essential building work required at Scoil Chormaic, Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

This special education School in Cashel has 222 pupils currently enrolled.

Following representations Mr Lowry has now succeeded in securing €162,000 through the Department of Education School Building Unit to replace a defective roof on a classroom building, within the educational facility.

For the past few years the roof in question has continuously leaked, causing disruption and inconvenience to both teachers and pupils attending.

A contractor has now been appointed and work is expected to commence on the structure in the coming weeks, with the project expected to be fully completed by the end of September 2019.

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No 80 Jobs For Thurles Promised By Alan Kelly TD

It was the cold Summer of 2015, that Tipperary TD Mr Alan Kelly, (the man who believes he should be leader of the Irish Labour Party and who unwinds by watching “House of Cards” every night), made the following statement in a PDF news letter, addressed to his rapidly dwindling constituent followers.

Read on and weep:-
“Thurles is set to become a major green energy hub and benefit from 40 new jobs for Tipperary following an announcement I made recently. The new jobs will be created at Premier Green Energy (PGE), which is located on the site of the former Thurles Sugar Factory. It is the brainchild of Tom Comerford from Holycross and is one of the first major enterprises to return to Thurles after the loss of Erin Foods, the Sugar Factory and many others. I have been working very closely supporting Tom and Premier Green Energy for the last three years. This is a very positive announcement for Thurles and even more significant when these jobs are being created by a local company which has a huge commitment to this area. I believe that this has potential to be the beginning of something really significant in terms of jobs for the Thurles area”.

The 2016 Irish general election took place on Friday 26th February and sometime before that dates Mr Kelly, anxious to gain re-election, doubled these same imaginary job numbers for Premier Green Energy to 80 in total. Well, I suppose if I were the director of a Ltd Company about to receive ‘a few bob’, sure wouldn’t I allow my local TD to experience a seemingly real perception of something not actually present, like 80 new jobs. The reality of course, as far as we can ascertain, to date 24/7/2019, not one job was ever created, in fact a number of employees were actually made redundant.

Now we learn from the courts that in recent days, a legal demand has emerged; made by a group of Chinese investors against Mr Kelly’s jobs creators, Premier Green Energy Ltd, latter company which we understand converts waste into energy. These Chinese investors are now seeking the repayment of a €1.5m loan, plus interest.

Quoquing Wu and Jianyu Qi (both based in Dublin), as well as Yuanming Chi, Xueqi Wang, Jingli Li, Qiling Li and Kailin Yao, (latter named all based in China), have taken legal proceedings against the Tipperary company of Premier Green Energy Holdings Ltd, listed as based in the Cabragh Business Park, here in Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

Premier Green Energy is a design, fabrication and manufacturing business for the provision of bespoke waste-to-energy conversion technology solutions. We understand that Premier Green Energy currently supply services to the former Verdanta mine site at Lisheen, Moyne, Thurles; however same are not listed as either partners or members of the consortium associated with Irish Bioeconomy Foundation.

The Chinese plaintiffs allege that they advanced a loan in March 2017 to the defendant, Premier Green Energy, of €1.5m for a period of 48 months. We are informed that celebrations by all involved took place in Portroe, North Tipperary, home stamping ground of Mr Kelly, following the contract signing transaction.

In court the plaintiffs also claim that as part of this loan agreement, 18% interest accruing on the principal sum loaned and was payable on the second, third and fourth anniversaries of the date that the loan was initially advanced.

On March 16th last, it is being claimed that €540,000 was due and owing to the named Chinese plaintiffs. Latter claim the defendants, Premier Green Energy Ltd, failed to make payment of the agreed sum payable, and further claim that the principal amount loaned, as well as the interest, is now due.

It is not known what other European or Irish funding, if any, was made to Premier Green Energy Ltd.

The plaintiffs now seek an order from the court requiring the defendants to pay them €2.17m, which is made up of the principal sum loaned, plus the interest allegedly due. They also seek an order for damages for breach of contract against the defendant firm of Premier Green Energy Ltd.

The matter was admitted, at the consent of both parties, to the fast track commercial court list, by Mr Justice Robert Haughton on Monday last and the case has now been adjourned to a date shortly after the court’s summer recess.

Efforts to contact Mr Kelly yesterday for comment were declined on the grounds that he was currently on holiday.

Alas, not surprisingly, Mr Kelly’s illusion of “effective public representation at local and national level” is not likely to emerge again until the next general election is announced; when his brain activity will be raised to resembles that of being fully awake.

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Local Election Candidate Ms Catherine Fogarty Discusses Thurles Tourism

A total of 11 candidates [2 women and 9 Men] have put their names forward for selection in the 2019 Local Council Elections, promising to protect our interests in our dealings with Tipperary Co. Council. Same candidates hope to fill the 5 currently vacant seats; thus representing, for the next 5 years, the Templemore /Thurles, Municipal District, here in Co. Tipperary.

In alpha order, their names are Mr Tommy Barrett (Independent); Mr Michael Bracken (Independent); Mr Fergal Butler (Fianna Fáil); Mr David Doran (Formerly incoming Sinn Féin & Outgoing Independent); Ms Catherine Fogarty (Independent); Mr Seamus Hanafin (Outgoing Fianna Fáil); Mr Micheál Lowry (Outgoing Independent); Ms Ciara Mccormack (Sinn Féin); Mr Jim Ryan (Outgoing Independent); Mr Peter Ryan (Fine Gael); and Mr Sean Ryan (Outgoing Fianna Fáil).

In an “Open Letter” posted on this website addressed to the above named 11 local candidates seeking election, [published on Sunday May 12th last]; to discuss in particular ‘Tourism’, latter a subject distinctively absent from all political paraphernalia pushed through letterboxes; today we received our first and only reply to-date.

Ms Catherine Fogarty emailed Thurles.Info today and same communication can be read hereunder.

It should be fully noted that Ms Fogarty is the only election candidate going forward for election, who fully refrained from using all advertising, through the use of strategically parked motor vehicles, election posters, glossy brochures and junk mail. She has chosen instead for the voting public to make their decision, based on her considerable voluntary work; undertaken within the Thurles local community.

Focus on Thurles local election candidate Ms Catherine Fogarty.

Ms Fogarty writes:-
“Thank you for the opportunity to discuss Tourism in Thurles.
I think the potential is immense, but find there is a lack of focus on this sector. I have attached some thoughts and look forward to the feedback on your website.”

Catherine Fogarty - ”Tourism Thoughts for Thurles“.

“The town crest features the motto “Fleadh agus Failte” a Banquet and a Welcome. We should look to this to make our town thrive again – so many other towns in Ireland have been successful – we can too!

In the past I have collaborated with George Willoughby’s dedication to the cause, by insisting that Shannon Development replace the poor quality, “Welcome to Thurles Map”, they produced with something more reflective of the Tourism offering, locally. If you recall Shannon Development released a map using only 50% of the surface and included images of Bunratty Castle, St John’s Castle, Craggaunowen and Lough Gur. It gave the impression that we were too lazy to promote our area or had nothing to promote. Thanks to our combined efforts 10,000 new maps were produced.

All of these are in circulation, as I rescued 5,300 from the cleaner’s closet in the staff canteen of Shannon Development property, latter once situated in Tipp. Technology Park.

Since Shannon Development was wound up in 2012 the responsibility for Tourism and Industrial Development in Tipperary has been allocated to Failte Ireland and IDA respectively.

Important to note that local effort is vital to improve our tourism product. Tipperary Tourism is new and improved since the merger in 2014, however their two lead products are Lough Derg in the north and Munster Vales in the south. I have suggested to them that the peat way development in Littleton could be the product that Mid and East Tipperary, can use as a core magnet.

As chairperson of Refresh Tidy Towns; I suggested that we adopt the orphaned Tourist Information Signs in the Square. I personally repainted them red, added new lettering and replaced some of the perspex.

We did believe Liberty Square redevelopment was imminent, however now I would not expect it to go to tender until sometime this year; so, a start date for the car park would be possibly late 2020 with work on the Square to follow. Note: My intuition on this – no information as to Council’s realistic timetable. The area is now forlorn with very poor footpaths and street furniture.

I did provide Thurles Town Centre Forum, in 2018, with details of the EU’s Wifi for EU Voucher scheme (Mr Sean Kelly MEP provided me with the details re application). Tipperary Co. Council did apply and secured 4 vouchers for the whole county. The Council’s Broadband Officer assures me that consideration will be given to allocating a voucher to Liberty Square. This will hopefully assist with bringing footfall to the square and assist in online promotion of events / attractions / bookings and other enquiries.

Similarly, I assisted Hayes Hotel in applying for an ‘Online Trading Voucher’. This supported their plan to install a ‘booking engine’ on their website. (I was not working at the hotel, but I contacted them about the opportunity). Note: A booking engine allows the website to take bookings instantly. Plenty of scope for other businesses to install booking engines and use online promotion to meet the potential customer online as they search for that product/experience. Hook those fishes when they are looking! Convert interested people into customers supporting our local economy. The voucher provides funding up to €2,500 for IT Consultation/software installation. T&Cs apply.

In 2013 with the assistance of Ms Rona Sorrell and Mr John Lanigan, a survey of approach road signage was completed. We have been pursuing this updating of road signage. In Dec. 2018 we were informed that the Councillors were to provide their response to signage options presented to them in September 2018. The District Administrator did arrange to put the matter on the Agenda after Christmas and some of the proposals have been displayed on this website. As a group we are not happy with the proposed signage. The signs are too harried, and the inclusion of images and the actual images selected all need to be simplified in our opinion. For roadside signage the user must be considered. Vehicles travelling at speed cannot see details inset in leaves or read a multiplicity of text. Creating the signage via ad hoc committees is not a good process. The new branding may be successful in documents / packaging and online, but not on roadside signs. Additionally, this signage project is minimal – we need an inclusive approach to wayfinding for our many visitor assets.

I have pursued the restoration of the www.thurles.ie – dormant since approx. 2010. In brief it will be launched later this month. The issue of ongoing maintenance is interesting. I am certainly willing to be of assistance in updating content and creating social media posts. Council budgets need to be updated to include provision of online presence and promotion tools. It must be vibrant, up to date and engaging, if it is to be beneficial to the town. I have sought a newsletter sign-up as a feature. Allows the town to capture contact details with permission to contact the person in the future. For me an inclusive Town Team is the way to proceed, if we are to be successful.

Each year I have tried to encourage local events along the theme selected for Heritage Week, I have compiled a list of local highlights and created an infographic to share online, with the Hotels, and created signage for display in Cabragh Wetlands, Library, Railway Station and one of the Tourist Information Signs at Ulster Bank. This was funded by a Refresh Thurles Tidy Towns grant via Tipperary County Council. Participation in Heritage Week increases the town’s profile and builds local event capacity.

Funding for Tourism is also an issue – the Municipal District Council do not fund tourism projects directly. Groups need to engage with Leader to secure funding, but they do have monies to distribute.

In the future what could be achieved?

I would offer to work 20 hours a week in Lar Na Pairce as a tourism animator / collaborator / information point / social media management point, if I was elected as a councillor. Indeed, if elected I would love to blend this with Tidy Towns projects as my full-time job. (While also fulfilling all Council related duties).

Thurles is an attractive town but needs much more care – council does fail to repair / replace items promptly. The damaged signage at corner near Premier insurances should have been removed immediately and later repaired. This neglect is embarrassing as has been rightly pointed out here. The Council does not act as the town’s guardian. First impressions matter.

I believe that Lar Na Pairce was purchased by Shannon Development and sold to Thurles Development Association for one old pound. Now that the shop is closed the building could revert to being a Tourism and Heritage Centre. A hub for all tourism providers to connect, a venue for tourism related events built on the magnet that the GAA museum should be. As I write this on Sunday May 19th, I note a tweet from Hong Kong – someone watching the match on GAAGO. Our local stadium has a global market and brand that we need to exploit to benefit our local economy.

The town model created by Jim Condon (purchased privately by George Willoughby and encased by funding from North Tipperary Co. Council), could be proudly displayed as a focal point. Tipperary County Board could be tenants upstairs, car park could be a source of revenue to fund Tourism activities – yes, a committee would be required to act on governance and remit. Perhaps the Tipperary Heartland members could provide a sub-committee to manage this effort? Important to be locally led – many of our key business in town are owned by non-residents e.g. Anner Hotel and Tipperary Star – local commitment is vital to success in my opinion.

While the town is situated on a River, virtually nothing has been done to promote the river as an amenity. We, in Refresh Thurles have developed a River celebration event this year, “Suirfest, Our River, Our Story”, and hope to promote the river as a vital element in our environment. It is a habitat, but it is also an amenity for several activities, but it is severely underdeveloped in the sense of access and pollution is also a cause for concern. Creating local infrastructure for canoeing and ensuring the river was fit for purpose would attract visitors with the option to travel virtually all the Suir to the Sea. It would be our ambition to develop the event to incorporate a Food Festival in Thurles. There is a need for Council funding to develop the river as an amenity in this area north of Cahir.

Our assets for tourism are immense – access, road / rail, local bus companies available, beautiful setting, 3 hotels approx. 190 rooms, magnets like Lisheen Castle, Farney Castle, Jim of the Mills, Source Arts Centre, Sporting events, Colleges for Conference venues, Semple Stadium Matches/Music, Holycross and Kilcooley Abbey, Walking in Grange, Doire Bhille, Upperchurch, Cabragh Wetlands, Coolmore, Devil’s Bit, Equestrian, Horse Racing, Fishing, Rich History of town from 580AD and Tipperary Studies to assist exploration. Pubs and live music offering are great. Our Festivals need improving to standard of events that are targeted at bringing visitors rather than an event for residents. Both can enjoy the Festival. Target audience impacts on the offering and the promotion. Utilising the services of AOIFE would aid this work.

Feile has returned and this year we can expect to see an additional Music Trail in town centre and improved offering at the Stadium. Council has funded this Music trail to extent of €15,000 so it is important to examine carefully the product offered and the ROI for the taxpayer. There is an opportunity cost in respect of this funding.

We have wonderful people in Thurles that provide a complex social and cultural offering – our biggest asset to providing a great visitor experience that will provide great word of mouth and positive recommendations.

Similarly, the two colleges are a potential source of visitors/events for our town and means of creating town ambassadors. We have many links abroad – this too is a source of visitors. Two of our schools offer boarding services – some from abroad. Each year Templemore Garda College hosts police officers from across Europe for training. They spend from 10 days to 4 weeks in the Anner Hotel. Their weekends and some evenings are free. We should tap into these people to provide some great local experiences that they may promote/return to visit with their families. During the week I met one such lady from Bosnia Herzegovina on her way to see the Cathedral interior.

Vacant buildings in poor condition are a challenge and we need an additional evening dining options while another hotel with 80 – 100 rooms would make the town eligible for additional Failte Ireland funding.

Failte Ireland aspire to creating new destination towns – will Thurles take on this challenge? Approximately 76% of all tourism nights are delivered in 7 counties. The new branding for Ireland’s Hidden Heartland which Tipperary can use is ideal for Thurles. Slow adventures can be had here.

We can also use the Ireland’s Ancient East Branding which was devised for all areas east of the Shannon excluding Dublin. The number one asset in IAE is the Rock of Cashel. We can benefit from visitors to Cashel. Many would find a tour of Holycross Abbey, with its local very well-trained guides, to be a more satisfactory experience than Cashel.

Indeed in 2017, 32 coaches of visitors came to Upperchurch on their itinerary from a Kerry base. They walked, tried hurling, dancing and footed turf – the majority gave this experience a higher rating than visiting the Cliffs of Moher! Our local assets in Thurles can give the visitor a memorable experience.

Amenities under development at present are the Lions Club River Walk and a Council funded feasibility study for a ‘peat way’ in Littleton Bog. The latter will seek to link with Walking and Cycling options in Thurles. The vacant Farm Building in the Town Park is to be made available to the Farmers Market. But this needs to move along promptly – the Farmers market will bring vibrancy to the area but there is potential for other uses in the building to make it hum more than one day per week.

Perhaps here is not the place to ask about the assets of the Thurles Famine Museum – could it be reassembled in a new location in Thurles? Perhaps the Lar na Pairce building could be a home – providing a vital source of footfall for Slievenamon Road with visitors free to ramble north or south?

Agri Tourism and food production are sectors that we should be successful in – we have the assets and the platform to do so. Local food served to visitors enriches their visit and makes it more memorable.

Training for local people via Failte Ireland’s local experts’ program would be beneficial. Every visitor should be welcomed and taken care of by people well informed about their locality. Local familiarisation for key personnel is important also.

Potential exists for creating bundles for visitors – e.g. Accommodation and tickets to a show at the Source. Guided tour of the town with accommodation partner. This needs time and effort to devise, promote and deliver the packages. This is role that a Thurles Tourism Animator could fulfil.

Ideally a role would be funded as a full-time role – probably on a contract basis perhaps with Leader or Community Services Program funding. In the meantime, I would offer my service to promoting and developing Thurles as a tourism destination because it is an area with huge potential to boost our local economy.

If we collaborate, we can extend the visitors stay and ensure a greater degree of spend in our local economy. There are some trained tour guides in Thurles – but if a group sought a tour or presentation about the town would there be someone ready?

Last year Hayes Hotel had an enquiry from an Active Retirement group for a presentation about Thurles prior to meal service – I arranged a speaker. There is huge potential and worth our while to develop some more tour guides in Thurles – thematic and general knowledge.

While there is a grouping, Tipperary Heartland Tourism, with wonderful assets I am not aware of their efforts in say the last 12 months – perhaps they could provide an update on their activities? For any voluntary group to make an impact is quite a challenge – typically the members are involved in several groups. A dedicated role in Thurles would make a huge contribution to developing our tourism product and visitor experience.

This is my offering for Thurles. Please consider me when voting on Friday May 24th.”

Signed: Catherine Fogarty.
Independent Candidate Thurles LEA.
Telephone Number: 087 270 1689.
Email: Fogartyc64@gmail.com

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