Wednesday, 12 March 2003
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is No. 1, Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Act 1999, which incorporated into Irish law the provisions of Article 3a of the television without frontiers directive. Article 3a of the directive allows member states to designate certain events as events of major importance to society to ensure that a substantial proportion of the population is not deprived of the possibility of watching such events on free television services. It was laid before the House four weeks ago. In accordance with section 2 of the Act, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has designated the following events: the summer Olympics; the all-Ireland senior inter-county football and hurling finals; Ireland's home and away qualifying games in the European championships—
It would be a different story if I did not read it. The list includes Ireland's games in the European football championship finals and the FIFA World Cup finals; the opening games, semi-finals and final of the European football championship finals and the FIFA World Cup finals; Ireland's games in the Rugby World Cup finals; the Irish Grand National; the Irish Derby and the Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show. Next on the Order of Business is No. 2, Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2003 – Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken after No. 1 until 1.30 p.m., to resume again at 2.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 4 p.m.; No. 3, statements on the Convention on the Future of Europe with Deputy John Bruton, a member of the Presidium of the Convention, who will make a 30 minute statement followed by statements by each spokesperson for five minutes and then Members may ask questions; and No. 15, motion No. 24, motion re motor insurance for young drivers, to be taken from 6 p.m. until 8p.m.
The Leader will agree that the only way the House can work properly and effectively is when there is a measure of co-operation between the Government and the Opposition in respect of the business of the day. Yesterday was a parliamentary shambles, however, because information that was absolutely germane to the debate was only given at the start of Committee Stage of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, the Minister responsible for the legislation was not with us and important amendments could not be tabled because of the timeframe involved. Today it is proposed to guillotine the legislation at 4 p.m. There will be no co-operation from this side of the House on the Order of Business, as has been the case during the past week. I propose once again that No.2 be deleted from the Order of Business.
I stress to the saner Members on the Government side of the House, particularly the Leader, who I know is not behind this, to draw back from this and take time out. We are going through a parliamentary nonsense. Even at this late stage, the Leader should amend the Order of Business, remove Committee Stage of the Bill and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Opposition.
Will the Leader respond to the offensive and incorrect remarks by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the Lower House last night when he questioned the actions of the Information Commissioner and suggested that the latter had overstepped his powers? Does she agree with that assessment? I know she does not and I believe the House should take an opinion on the matter. The legislation passed in 1997—
I concur with everything Senator Brian Hayes has just said. It is important to recognise that, in terms of how we do our business, as Senator Leyden said many times yesterday, this situation is unprecedented. We have found that the Government was hiding from us information issued by the Information Commissioner. The Government is opposed to that information being made available to us and we are not being allowed due time to have consultation with the senior people involved in the drawing up of the Bill. The Government has decided to press ahead without speaking to the senior civil servant of the State who is charged with responsibility for the matter. The final and ultimate sanction, which the Leader said she would never do, is that a guillotine will be dropped on the debate on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill at 4 p.m. That is outrageous and I hope the Leader is suitably ashamed. I know she is under instruction, but I hope that privately she will feel the same sense of shame for this House as that felt by other Members. Although the Leader said she would never go along with that approach, we are now forced into a situation whereby the House is being brought into grave disrepute.
I also wish to propose an amendment to the Order of Business. I circulated the following motion a short time ago on behalf of the Independent Senators:
That Seanad Éireann expresses its thanks and appreciation to the Information Commissioner for bringing to the attention of the Houses of the Oireachtas vital information regarding the operation of the Freedom of Information Act and affirms his statutory entitlement to make such a report.
I request that, as an amendment, that motion be taken as No. 1 on the Order of Business today. In no way should any elected person wish to leave the House without putting on the record their views as to whether we should be party to the muzzling and stemming of information from a most crucial and important source in relation to the business before it. That we should be part of such a charade is unbelievable. For our successors, who may look back on what is now happening in the House, it is crucial that we—
The text of Senator O'Toole's motion was received in the Seanad office only today and is currently being circulated. It will appear on tomorrow's Order Paper. The Chair is not prepared to waive the requirements of notice set out in Standing Order 25 in this case and I am ruling that this motion is not in order for discussion this morning. However, if the Senator wishes to propose that statements be made on the subject matter, I will accept that as an amendment.
That is very helpful. Although I would have much preferred to move the motion and may do so at another time, it is crucially important for fair-minded and serious legislators and public representatives on all sides of the House to have the opportunity of stating their views as to whether we should engage in deep legislative consideration without having access to information. Undoubtedly, any examination of events over these three days will show that serious attempts were made to ensure that the Information Commissioner did not influence the outcome of these discussions.
The issue of whether the commissioner's action yesterday was acceptable to Government is separate. The fact is that he was not going to be consulted in the first instance. It is unacceptable that a major change to the way the House does its business should be instituted without consultation. This is outrageous and we cannot proceed on that basis.
In deference to the Leas-Chathaoirleach, I will not challenge the ruling of the Chair for a second day in succession. Yesterday, it was decided that amendments would not be taken due to lack of time, despite the fact that we were in negotiation on a Bill when there was information in our pigeon-holes which even the Minister of State and the Department did not possess. How will anybody explain this to their children who may be working on a history thesis 20 years from now? Good luck to them.
I accept that. I now propose that, as No. 1, we take statements on the issue of yesterday's report from the Information Commissioner, expressing our appreciation – or otherwise – on that issue. That is my proposal.
On the matter raised by the Leader in respect of major sporting events, that was one of the reasons I wanted those easily available when I raised this issue a few weeks ago. I still believe, in terms of business, that Senator Ryan was correct in saying it is not the appropriate place to deal with the matter, although I welcome what the Leader had to say. I am not sure whether it is a statutory instrument or a ministerial order. There are issues of which we need to be aware in that regard.
On a technical issue in that regard, we need to know whether it is a statutory instrument or a ministerial order and whether it is a decision taken on the basis of a decision prior to a debate in the House or one which can be rescinded within 21 sitting days. We need to be aware of those issues before we can make decisions about taking it without debate. If it is a matter requiring a decision, I do not wish to take it without debate. However, that is really a type of side-show from what we are about today. We are again undermining the democratic process—
—and I hope people will at least take account of our views. Nobody can control the voices of those on the other side of the House, even if their votes can be controlled. At least, they are free to speak and I look forward to hearing their support on this issue.
The last time I saw Fianna Fáil in full flight trying to silence somebody, their target was the Ombudsman, who was making trouble for that party on that occasion. Now, it has allies who are apparently even more enthusiastic about silencing people than was Mr. C. J. Haughey at his worst. Perhaps Mr. Haughey's protégé is becoming more visible as a clone of the mentor.
Yes, and Senators on the Government side will hear it again with considerable vigour because they are caught badly on this issue. The real nature of the Government, which is running away with itself, has been exposed to public view. They have jumped into their bunkers and are afraid to debate. They ran away from Second Stage of this debate.
I believe I have made my point.
I formally second Senator Hayes's proposal that No. 2 be removed from the Order of Business. I also fully support Senator O'Toole's proposal that the sane voice of the Information Commissioner, a former very senior civil servant, ought to be introduced into this debate by a dispassionate consideration of his report. That involves not calling him names or telling him he should not say certain things which upset the Government. If the Leader persists in imposing the Bill on the House, perhaps she would invite the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who seems to have strong views on the matter, to take Committee Stage. That would solve many problems.
Since the Progressive Democrats are obviously committed to this Bill with great enthusiasm and considerable colour, let us get in a Progressive Democrats Minister, one who grabbed headlines for himself on the front of The Irish Times this morning. Let him come in and deal with the debate. He apparently knows more about it than anybody else. He knows more about the Information Commissioner than anybody else. Why is he running away too, just like Fianna Fáil did last week?
I want to teach them and I offer no apologies to Fianna Fáil indifference to the welfare of young people if they start attacking me about looking after my students. That is silly nonsense. They really are back to type, the way they always were.
I raise another issue, that is, the extraordinary fact that the Department of Health and Children, over six weeks, cannot tell a Member of the other House how many committees and commissions have been set up to look at various aspects of the health service. That is the first part. Perhaps the Leader can get the Department to do what it apparently cannot do itself.
Second, none of these committees and commissions has reported so far. Am I correct in assuming that none of them will report until after this obnoxious legislation is passed, in which case only the bits of the reports that suit the Government will ever be published? Is that what is going on?
There are 205 apparently, but they do not know for certain. I would like to know if those committees are all being delayed until after the Government amends the Freedom of Information Act 1997, so that we will not know what they say. It is a mess created by this Government.
On a very precise point of order, Standing Order 107 states that in committee a Bill shall be considered section by section. If this Bill concludes, as the Leader wishes, at some time this afternoon and a significant number of sections have not been reached, the House cannot just stop there because we would be in breach of Standing Orders. If the Leader wants to conclude, it is her duty to put a motion down under Standing Order 144 to override the provision in Standing Orders that a Bill must be debated section by section. If the Leader proposes to take a lump of them together without debate, it is her duty to propose a motion to this House to amend Standing Orders. It is up to you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, with all due respect, to ensure that we work within Standing Orders.
I am sure Members on all sides of the House will deplore the fact that the recent interest rate reduction has not been passed on in full to mortgagees. It is a desperate situation which deserves the highest condemnation from all sides of this House and indeed all sections of society, given the fact that this affects young people who must take out very expensive mortgages in order to purchase their own home. I deplore the fact that the full extent of the rate reduction has not been passed on.
I want to raise an issue regarding the State's only Integrated Coastal Zone Management Initiative, that is, Bantry Bay Charter, which has been in operation in west Cork since 1997. It was set up under EU guidelines in conjunction with UCC, CIT and Cork County Council and brought together a number of competing interests regarding the use of the coastal zone in that area.
Cork County Council has been funding this initiative to the tune of €50,000 per annum. The entire cost of running it is €179,000 per annum. Various Departments have refused to continue to fund this initiative, which was largely recognised by scientists and marine experts alike as being unique in Europe in terms of the delivery of its service.
About a year ago the then Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Fahey, visited west Cork and gave a commitment to pass on the handling of coastal zone management to senior staff in his own Department.
I am indeed. The Minister and his Department were unable to comment yesterday on the fact that this initiative has now been wound up. I wonder if the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources was in Cheltenham with his colleagues from other Departments.
Why did he not comment on this? Perhaps his mind was in Cheltenham. It is important that the Leader of the House should arrange for the Minister or one of his delegates, because he might have gone to Cheltenham, to come in to debate this serious issue.
I ask the Leader to seek the views of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on up-coming EU legislation which would allow free movement of medical practitioners within members state without being registered with the regulatory body in the state they are visiting. This means that a doctor can come into this country and practise for up to 16 weeks without being on the register of the Medical Council. That is not good for safe practice. It is not good for patients' safety and for the high standards to which we in this jurisdiction are accustomed. I ask the Leader to seek the Tánaiste's views on that legislation.
Yesterday evening, after a long and tortuous debate, we reached section 6 of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill. No doubt this Bill is one of the most important measures to come before the Oireachtas in the past 20 years because it cuts across the fundamental rights already established under the 1997 Act.
The Bill is being introduced in this House. Therefore this is the first attempt of the Oireachtas at debating the Bill and deciding on its merits or demerits. The purpose of Committee Stage is to enable the Legislature to undertake a root and branch analysis of each section and each amendment put forward by the Opposition or by the Government. At 4 p.m. today huge tranches of this Bill will not have been debated. If it were the other House that were given the privilege of dealing with this Bill, it would go to select committee and be dealt with, section by section, amendment by amendment. It would be given as much time as possible. There would be absolutely no containment and no restriction.
The manner in which this is being bull-dozed and guillotined through shows absolute contempt for the Bill and for Parliament. It is manifestly wrong. The subject matter itself and the procedures of Parliament are too serious to allow this to happen. I believe that the Leader, in her heart of hearts, in her own conscience and mind, does not agree with this procedure. It is wrong, for example, that section 12, which is the core of the Bill, will not be reached today.
The new partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, has been published and circulated, although it is subject to ratification. Perhaps, as agreed earlier, we could have an early debate on this when the House reconvenes the week after next.
I second Senator O'Toole's proposal that we take the report of the Information Commissioner first on the Order of Business. I am sure the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is a fine lawyer, but this report was incredibly useful to me as a legislator. We are legislators, but we are also citizens and we are curtailing our own rights in the legislation that is being put through the House. This matter should be addressed with some urgency.
I would be grateful if the Leader would ask the Minister for Health and Children to come before the House to explain the number of task forces and commissions that have been set up. I can assist Senator Ryan by saying that, according to a friend of mine, the number was 103 at the last count, although several have been established since then. A serious problem is the lack of reporting from many of these task forces. We heard today about the task force on radiotherapy, which was expected to report well over a year ago. Members of the medical profession thought that the report was not released before the general election because a centre was not to be set up in Wexford, but that was nearly a year ago. We have heard also of the serious problems in St. Luke's Hospital. Some of these reports must be released. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister to explain why this is not happening. The hiatus between being set up and reporting is far too long.
I formally second the proposal of Senator Higgins.
Senator Henry mentioned St. Luke's Hospital. I listened to an interesting interview this morning on the difficulties the hospital is having in staying within its budget and the pressure on resources. The report on radiotherapy facilities was promised before the general election. It is widely envisaged that centres in Dublin, Galway and Cork will be recommended. I have raised twice on the Adjournment the urgent necessity of providing a facility for the mid-west region. In our area there is a charity trust that is prepared to provide funding for the capital resources and all we need is the staffing. Pressure is being put on St. Luke's because people are coming in from all parts of the country, particularly my own area in the mid-west.
The Leader is a reasonable person and she knows that at times the Adjournment debate can be very frustrating. One receives a bland response, which never actually addresses one's query. She might take up with the Minister for Health and Children the urgent necessity of providing a facility in the mid-west region.
I ask the Leader to reconsider her position on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2003. Many relevant points have been made by Senators Brian Hayes, O'Toole, Higgins and Ryan. Tomorrow, the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service will hear representations from various mandarins, journalists, representatives from the media and the Information Commissioner. I understand that Deputy Fleming, the Chairman of the committee, has said that a statement would be issued. Before things go any further here, we would like to hear the result of these deliberations. I am sure the Leader, despite the orders from on high, could make a day or two available when we recommence the week after next. I urge the Leader to consider this. She has been reasonable in the past.
We all know that Killarney National Park is one of the jewels in our crown. Within the park, by the Meeting of the Waters, there is a most attractive gem—
The Leader acceded to my request that she ask the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, who is conducting an audit of State property, to come before the House. I know from talking to him that he is prepared to do so. He might be otherwise engaged at present, but we do not need him immediately. The Minister of State is responsible for much national property within the Office of Public Works and Dúchas, although a resolution is to made be the Government on the responsibilities of these two organisations.
Dinis Cottage has fallen into a most appalling state of disrepair. This is a national tragedy, which must be addressed.
Does the Leader have any more pertinent information regarding the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Bill? I know she tried to find out when it might be introduced. Is there any update on the position?
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport to come before the House to debate the proposed draft regulation on the maximum height restrictions for vehicles. Serious concerns have been expressed to me about transport equipment, in which people have invested massive amounts. If the regulations are implemented as proposed, much of this equipment could become obsolete.
I would also like the Leader to invite the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to come before the House to explain why the Government has failed to implement the fourth EU insurance directive. The European Commission is threatening us with court action for failing to comply with this directive, the deadline for which was July 2002. This has serious implications for people involved in accidents in other EU states.
I support the proposal of my colleague, Senator O'Toole, because what is happening in the Seanad is dangerous. Senator Ryan also made the useful suggestion that we invite the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to take the debate on the Bill. The Minister is an articulate and highly intelligent man.
I know he has strong views on this matter because I met him in the corridor last night. We had a private conversation, but I imagine he would welcome the opportunity of placing on the record of the House the strong views he expressed to me.
Attacks have been made on the Information Commissioner. To balance these, however, a senior academic from NUI Cork, who is qualified in this area, made it perfectly plain while speaking on RTE this morning that it was not only the entitlement but almost the responsibility of the commissioner to make an intervention such as he did.
Yesterday's debate was a blot on the record of the Seanad. It was curtailed and some outrageous rulings were made. The gracious agreement of the Leader to allow us an opportunity of reading the document was rendered absolutely useless by the refusal of the Cathaoirleach to accept the amendments put down by Senator O'Toole, which arose directly from the reading of that document. He said they should be taken on Report Stage. This has had one clear technical result: the debate has been completely guillotined. People can only speak once on Report Stage. The Seanad has been neutered. What we are supposed to do here is probe the amendments and use them to tease out information. The Cathaoirleach forestalled that with an arbitrary and capricious decision. The reason I say this, before I am reproved, is that the only other interpretation would be that it was partisan and I am not prepared to make that accusation.
I am supporting my colleague and I am seeking a proper debate. The Leader, and various people on the Government side, asked why we could not get to section 12 of the Bill. The answer is that it is our responsibility to try to extract information and it is pretty difficult to do so when the Minister of State has no competence in the area and his advisers do not seem to know much either. This was the case yesterday, when we could not get answers. If this kind of legislation is to be rammed through the House and we cannot get answers from the Minister responsible, who is engaged elsewhere, we will stay here and do our best to act in a responsible way, as is required of us under the Constitution.
The Leader graciously accepted that there might be a need for a debate on Tibet. Will she examine the matter with more urgency and arrange a time for such a debate? When I raised the matter yesterday, I did not realise that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, without consultation of either House of the Oireachtas or the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, has, on behalf of the people, made a violent change in the attitude of Ireland to Tibet. Without any substantiation, he has suggested that we accept Tibet is a part of China. This was never discussed, is not part of Government policy and contradicts what has been said by previous Ministers for Foreign Affairs.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should further explain Garda rules under which a ludicrous situation recently obtained in a Dublin courts. In the instance to which I refer, the trial of a Mongolian national was aborted because the translator was not fully competent and was also a witness for the prosecution. It is quite bizarre that a witness for the prosecution was translating the contribution of the Mongolian national accused.
I support Senator Finucane's request to raise with the Minister for Health and Children his proposals for the radiotherapy unit in Limerick. The Minister will be aware that the Limerick proposal, in conjunction with a Dublin hospital, is already partly funded and will, therefore, not require enormous funding. In view of the urgency of obtaining a decision, will the Leader ask the Minister what is the status of the application and when we might have a decision on it?
Senators have commented about the curtailment of time on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2003. A long-standing procedure in the Oireachtas allows for each section of a Bill to be taken by allocating limited time to each in order that they can all be debated within the overall time allocated. If the Whips could agree, it might be possible to have an arrangement whereby each section could be given adequate time for debate in order that one would not have a confusion of ten or 12 sections at the end of the period.
I support my Opposition colleagues' comments on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2003. Our legislative function, as Members of the Upper House of the Oireachtas, is being undermined by the farcical process being played out this week. In light of the report of the Information Commissioner and the remarks of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I appeal to the Leader that this Bill be put into a cooling process until we hear from the Committee on Finance and the Public Service on the matter. In particular, we need to hear the more detailed remarks of the civil servants who drew up the report, which the Taoiseach is outrageously using as cover and as an excuse for amending the legislation. I support my colleagues in requesting that debate ends now, on Committee Stage.
I request an urgent debate on the health services, which are clearly in a state of crisis. Our national hospitals, such as the Mater, Beaumont and St. Luke's, are reported daily as having serious difficulties with carrying out their basic functions. I further request that the Minister for Health and Children come before the House at the earliest possible opportunity to report on his stewardship, or lack thereof, of this important area.
It is understandable that we are distracted by the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2003 and the report of the Information Commissioner and I support the comments made in that context on this side of the House. However, let us not forget yesterday's inauguration of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. We passed a referendum two years ago to sign our participation with that court into law. At a time when we seem to be getting ever closer to war, we should plead for the rule of law in international affairs to be upheld. The people took the establishment of the International Criminal Court to heart and passed it into legislation by way of a referendum. Other countries have not yet done so and others have still not accepted it. As we approach war, let us ensure that the House does not turn its eye away from this matter.
Senator Hayes has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business. He also asked for my thoughts on the comments of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, but I am amply reminded that the business of the Lower House is not our business.
I am going through the comments of Senators.
Senator O'Toole described the arrangements for the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act as outrageous and muzzling and saw fit to use various other adjectives. He referred to the list of games I provided. When the Senator raised this matter previously, I told him he could arrange to have debates on any issues by informing the Cathaoirleach or me.
Senator Ryan claimed there has been no debate on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2003. That is factually incorrect, since there was strong debate in the House, including several divisions, until 10.30 p.m. yesterday. Notwithstanding that, I do not cast aspersions on Senators who were not present. The Senator seconded Senator Hayes's proposed amendment and agreed with Senator O'Toole's amendment. He also requested that I invite the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform before the House. The Minister has been before the House regularly and I am sure would come here again, if requested.
Senator Ryan also inquired about the precise number of commissions established by the Department of Health and Children. The Minister for Health and Children correctly accepts that the health sector needs to be thoroughly reviewed and action taken on foot of the results of the reviews. This matter was raised yesterday and it was decided to have a debate on the content of the two main reports after we receive them.
Senator Glynn reasonably asked why the reduction of interest rates by the ECB is not being passed on in Ireland to the same degree as it apparently has in other countries.
Senator McCarthy raised the Bantry Bay initiative on the use of the coastal zone, which has been funded by Cork County Council. He asked if the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has gone to Cheltenham. He has not. The Minister was in the House yesterday to complete the debate on the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) (Amendment) Bill 2003. I am not casting aspersions on those who were not present. I will pass the Senator's query on to the Minister. I presume he is asking that funding be provided.
Senator Henry also raised the important issue of radiotherapy services. Senator Finucane formally seconded the proposal of Senator Higgins. He also asked about radiotherapy services in the mid-western region from which many patients have to travel to St. Luke's which is upsetting in itself when they are in a poor state of health.
Senator Coghlan asked that I reconsider the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill. He is also very concerned about Killarney National Park, the Meeting of the Waters and Dinis Cottage.
The Senator also asked about the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Bill which will be taken after Easter. Members will be able to avail of the recess to study it in full.
Senator Bannon asked about what might be done with regulations dealing with the height of vehicles with reference to tunnels. He also asked about the European insurance directive. While we will not be debating it tonight, a general debate is being held on the matter of the cost of insurance and the effect it is having on young people in particular.
Senator Norris supported Senator O'Toole's call for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come the Seanad. He also mentioned the senior lecturer we heard on "Morning Ireland" this morning. I must comment on what he said about the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, and his advisers yesterday. I am sure all Members will join me in saying we found the Minister of State and his advisers to be both agreeable and amenable and that they did the best they could.
I wish to raise a point of order. Senator Norris was very careful not to criticise, in any way, the Minister of State personally. He said the Minister of State was from another Department, did not have information to hand and that information was not available. That is correct. There was silence yesterday afternoon while the Minister of State consulted his advisers who did not have the answers.
A debate was requested on Tibet which should be held as quickly as possible. Senator Daly supported Senator Finucane's comments on the Limerick radiotherapy unit and urged that it be considered.
Senator O'Meara supported her colleagues and sought a cooling process on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill. She also sought an urgent debate on health.
Senator Quinn brought to our attention the appointment of 18 judges to the court at The Hague yesterday. This is the first permanently sitting court to deal with war crimes.