Italian deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini

Italy’s populist government is standing firm on its new budget proposals, but it could now pay the price for doing so with the EU launching disciplinary measures against the country.

The European Commission — the EU’s legislative arm — said that Italy’s 2019 draft budget does not comply with the EU’s requirement that member states work to reduce their debt piles.

As such, the Commission will now launch what’s known as an “Excessive Deficit Procedure” that could lead to Italy being fined.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini remained defiant after the news, saying he will talk to the Commission “politely, as always, but will carry on.”

Who would want to leave such a club?

Pause.

Combattimento!

EU begins disciplinary procedures against Italy after rejecting its controversial budget plans (CNBC)

Pic: Getty

Getaway

A new Dublin-based hotel deals website.

Jonny writes:

If you looking or a short break in Ireland check out Getaway. We offer huge discounts on hotel deals in Ireland focusing on the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East.

Our deals offer up to 51% discounts on a wide range of Hotels in Ireland plus we are offering an extra 10% off for the rest of November using the discount code BLKNOV18 on checkout.

Might be nice to get a break before Christmas or in the new year.

Getaway

Getawy (Facebook)

Irish-made stocking fillers to broad[email protected] marked ‘Irish-Made Stocking fillers’. No fee.

This morning/afternoon.

D’Olier Street, Dublin

Protestors from Take Back the City, outside the offices of the Residential Tenancies Board at O’Connell Bridge House, which they occupied today while issuing demands for the housing crisis to be addressed.

More to follow.

Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Meanwhile…


This afternoon.

High Street, Christchurch, Dublin 8.

Take Back thew City protestors occupy the headquarters of homeless charity Focus Ireland.

More to follow.

Rollingnews

This afternoon.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone informed a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs about a review of Scouting Ireland records by safeguarding expert Ian Elliot.

She said she was informed last night that Mr Elliot found evidence of 71 alleged abusers and 108 alleged victims of abuse.

She added: “This is based on his work to date and the number may change.”

She said most of the alleged abuse occurred between the 1960s and 1980s but one case may be from an earlier period.

She said none of the alleged abusers are currently working with Scouting Ireland and that reports have been made to Tusla and An Garda Siochana in respect of the alleged abusers who are still alive.

Scouting Ireland finds evidence of 108 child abuse cases (The Irish Times)

This morning.

In the Dáil.

Several TDs, including Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Independents 4 Change TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, raised the Irish Navy’s current involvement in the European Union’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean where asylum seekers attempting to leave Libya are being brought back to Libya.

Irish freelance journalist Sally Hayden, who last week won the Foreign Coverage award at the Irish Journalism awards for her Irish Times reports on migration matters, has been reporting extensively in recent months on asylum seekers who have been intercepted by the Libyan coastguard and brought back to Libya where they’ve been detained.

Last month, Ms Hayden reported:

“Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been returned to Libya since February 2017, when the country’s UN-backed government entered into a deal with Italy to prevent migration to Europe. Italian politicians have called the deal a success, because it has reduced the number of people arriving on their shores.

“However, for the men, women and children returned to Libya, the situation is bleak. More than a dozen detainees across Tripoli contacted by phone have described detention centres rife with abuse, where they’re fed once a day at most, forced to work, and sometimes beaten or raped. Overcrowding has led to the spread of infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

Further to this.

The Junior Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe told the Dáil this morning that Operation Sophia has  helped to “improve overall maritime security”.

He said the latest UN figures show that, as of November 14, 2018, the number of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea was 103,347 – compared to 156,708 in 2017, and 343,258 in 2016.

He said Ireland’s involvement in Operation Sophia in 2019 is currently being considered and a decision will be made on that following a full review of its 2018 deployments.

He also said: “We have interrupted the smugglers in the model that they are using. We’ve destroyed their boats and they use to smuggle migrants through.”

And he explained: “When we joined Operation Sophia, Operation Pontus [its predecessor] was a humanitarian search and rescue mission undertaken by Ireland’s bilateral agreement with the Italian authorities and the sole focus of that mission was the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean. Now we’ve joined Operation Sophia, it specifically seeks to counter traffic and smuggling in the south Mediterranean, central Mediterranean sea, by taking action against criminal networks.”

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly put it to Mr Kehoe that Operation Sophia is not about saving or rescuing people from the Mediterranean but, instead it’s “part of your current drip, drip participation into involvement in a PESCO and a future European army”.

Mr Kehoe said: “Deputy, absolutely, of course, I agree with you 100%. Of course, it’s a military mission. But also it’s a UN-mandated mission.”

He added:

“When we joined PESCO, and brought it to the Cabinet, brought it to the House here, it was voted democratically by the members of this House, to join Operation Sophia and it totally changed the mission that we were participating in under Operation Pontus.

“Operation Sophia specifically seeks to counter human trafficking and smuggling in the south, central Mediterranean, by taking action against the criminal networks and disrupting smugglers’ business model by improving maritime security.

“Operation Sophia is actively  contributing to the EU and international efforts to, of the return of  stability in Libya. In addition, Operation Sophia plays an important role in the training of the Libyan coastguard. We weren’t doing any of that under Operation Pontus.”

Mr Ó Snodaigh put it to Mr Kehoe that it was his understanding that the Irish Navy isn’t in Libyan ports.

Therefore, he asked Mr Kehoe to confirm if the Irish Navy has been “destroying” smugglers’ boats at sea.

He also asked Mr Kehoe to confirm how many boats the Irish Navy has escorted back to Libya.

Mr Kehoe said he would come back to Mr Ó Snodaigh with a figure.

Meanwhile, Mr Wallace said:

“Operation Sophia is pulling people back to a place of violence and human rights violations. Only yesterday, authorities used rubber bullets and tear gas to force over 90 refugees to disembark a cargo ship docked at Misrata.

“The stand-off lasted 10 days. The refugees, including children, said they’d rather die than return to indefinite detention in Libya. This is the reality of Libya and Operation Sophia.

Now scores of refugees are killing themselves in detention centres where the Irish Navy are helping the Libyan coastguard to keep these desperate people. You said Minister, that you’re saving lives by interrupting smugglers, you’re sending them back to violence.

“They’d rather be killed then go back. You talk about a UN mandate, let’s not forget. The UN gave the mandate to destroy this place in the first place. That’s what they did. There’s no sense in what’s going on there, Minister.”

“We should have nothing to do with this military mission. We’re actually crucifying people by sending them back to Libya which this government, your government, actually, agrees with the NATO mission there. And sadly back by UN mandate.”

Mr Kehoe responded:

“Our mission statement totally changed when we joined Operation Sophia but I wasn’t hiding behind anything.”

Related: Libya is a war zone. Why is the EU still sending refugees back there? (Sally Hayden, The Guardian)

Yesterday.

Minsk, Belarus.

Ted writes:

Our Junior Eurovision 2018 representative Taylor Hynes had his first rehearsal (performing IOU) and it looked sharp!

The dance moves are polished and elements of the 70s look from the official video were present on stage.

Very positive reviews of the song in the Eurovision media bubble. You can’t bet on junior (they’re kids!) so can’t look at the bookies for odds, but fan chatter has Poland and France breaking away as favourites. #nopenneysjumpers

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest takes place this Saturday afternoon.

Junior Eurovision 2018

Previously: Hynes Catch Up

Journalist Ken Foxe, former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic

Journalist, Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer and Right To Know director Ken Foxe previously unearthed, via requests under the Freedom of Information Act, correspondence between Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, and the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and/or her officials, during Ms Fitzgerald’s time as minister.

Mr Foxe sought the correspondence between Ms Prone and Ms Fitzgerald between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

During this period of time, Ms Prone was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Foxe had initially been told there were no such records.

After appealing the matter to the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OIC discovered there were 68 such records.

The Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall subsequently asked the Department of Justice to ask Ms Fitzgerald to check her personal email accounts for any other records.

The Department of Justice later informed Mr Foxe there were more than 190 such records.

Further to this…

On Sunday, Mr Foxe released further documents obtained under FOI which show that the Department of Justice was considering going to the High Court – over the request to ask Ms Ftizgerald to check her private email for correspondence with Ms Prone.

They also show that Ms Fitzgerald said some of the records found in her personal email related to internal Fine Gael business and were “confidential and commercially sensitive”.

And they show how the current Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan was kept up to date on the developments regarding Mr Foxe’s FOI request.

And how the Department of Justice planned on issuing a profuse and thorough apology to Mr Foxe but, in the end, sent him  a much watered-down version.

Previously: Clinical Exposure