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The Future of Mediation in Ireland

The Future of Mediation in Ireland

Where do you see mediation in five years in Ireland?

 

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In five years in Ireland, put it this way, if the Department of Justice hasn’t finally published and passed the Mediation Bill that was initially presented in 2012, if that hasn’t been done in five years time, I might have to just go and just chain myself to the gates of government buildings. You can hold me to that because it has been promised and promised and promised. And I don’t know if we had a, somewhat controversial, change of Minister for Justice there a couple of months ago, and we’re really hoping that the new minister now is going to have this on her to-do list for this session or early next year at the very latest. Because it’s well past time.

 

So for Ireland I’m hoping we will have a new comprehensive law on mediation that will enshrine all the key principles of mediation. I suppose a bit of the impetus behind it was, amongst other things, the shall we say, “encouragement” of the international community notably the I.M.F. and the European Central Bank to Ireland to get our dispute resolution processes into a more cost effective space particularly in the public sector.

 

So the public sector legal spend has to come down under the terms of our I.M.F. EU [inaudible 00:53:35]. Then of course there’s the EU [sounds like 00:53:40] mediation directive of 2008 which has been implemented, but is there really to be worked with in the context of the Irish legal system. So if the final bill is similar in terms to its first incarnation, it will mean enshrinement of the key principles of mediation such as confidentiality, impartiality, voluntary process, etc.

 

It will also provide new mechanisms for cases to be diverted into mediation. There will be an onus on solicitors, on barristers to refer cases to mediation, to provide information to clients on mediation. The courts would have broader powers of ordering mediation and directing attendance at mediation or information sessions. The M.I.I., the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland, with whom I work, are hoping for some more provisions to be put in place in relation to regulation, or at least the creation of a register of mediators. So it really has the potential to change the landscape and for the first time properly regulate both the profession and the practice of mediation in Ireland. So hopefully I’ll be reporting back on that at some stage.

 

In international terms, really from engagement with my international colleagues, I can only see it developing. I think there is broad recognition there that one type of dispute resolution process, i.e. the courts, is no longer enough and that mediation is going to take its place. Not just as an alternative process or as a soft option but as a proper, robust, dispute resolution process. And then although I think, you’ll probably, after the forthcoming conference in October, will be better to report on this. But I think the online environment is one that I would be very much keeping my eye on in terms of developments of new platforms and dispute resolution processes. I think that’s really a big growth area.

 

It’s an interesting one that on the training front and the accreditation front particularly. It’s quite a controversial one, because of what you want in many ways is the increased professionalisation and particularly the recognition of mediation as a profession and as a service for a service users. But you don’t want that to happen at the expense of the creativity and the flexibility of the process itself, which is what makes it so different. So the risk always, with over-regulation particularly of training, is that the essence of what makes mediation different to some of the more streamlined processes, for want of a better word, is it has the potential to be regulated out if you like.

About the mediator

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Sabine became a full time mediator having left legal practice in 2009. She has a broad ranging private practice. She is Programme Director and Lecturer on the Postgraduate Certificate in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at St. Angela’s College, Sligo (NUIG), and also provides mediation training for other agencies, including the Law Society. She is a certified international family mediator, a trained Professional Practice Consultant and hold... View Mediator