Recent developments in relation to Mediation in Ireland

The 16th of November 2010 was a highly significant day for the advancement of Mediation in Ireland. The Law Reform Commission’s Report on Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation and Conciliation, was launched by the Chief Justice, Mr John Murray and on the same day the new High Court rules to promote mediation and conciliation in proceedings in the Superior Courts, which was launched by Dermot Ahern, T.D., came into effect. These rules were introduced following provisional recommendations from the Law Reform Commission in its Consultation Paper on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

The Law Reform Commissions’ Report forms part of the Commission’s Third Programme of Law Reform 2008-2014, makes over 100 reform recommendations and also includes a draft Mediation and Conciliation Bill.

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The new High Court rules provide for a mechanism similar to the type used successfully and extensively in the Commercial High Court proceedings since 2004, whereby a judge can order the parties to engage in ADR. The provisions specify that the refusal or failure without good reason of a party to participate in mediation or conciliation may be taken into account by the court when awarding costs

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In her opening address to the recent MII Annual Conference, 6th November, the MII president Karen Erwin called on Government Departments, local government, state agencies and semi state bodies to introduce with immediate effect, a policy that mediation be actively and positively considered as the default position for dispute resolution. She highlighted the resulting savings which could be made which echoes recommendations made by Mr Colm McCarthy and the An Bord Snip Nua Report and others.

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These developments go towards preparing the way for a significant growth in mediation and alternative dispute resolution in Ireland in the coming years. Those of us who believe in the fundamental justice of alternative dispute resolution which is accessible to all, have an obligation to participate in debate and discussion on how that will be provided. There are many challenges related to the above changes being introduced and a variety of opinion, thought and experience which need to be considered.

This is a challenging but exciting time in Ireland at a time of great change. We believe that mediation and all forms of alternative dispute resolution can play a significant part in a new form of citizenship and economic recovery.

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