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Mediation - A Real Option (Press Release from IPMO 2024 Conference)

12 Mar 2024 10:40 AM | Anonymous

Mediation: a real option across the island of Ireland

The Irish Professional Mediators’ Organisation Annual Conference

A powerful presentation by charismatic keynote speaker the Hon Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger set the tone for an exciting second annual conference for the Irish Professional Mediators’ Organisation, held at the Dublin Dispute Resolution Centre on March 7th. While Judge Bolger is a sitting High Court judge, and an accredited mediator, it was in her capacity as President of the Irish branch of GEMME that she spoke to attendees about the importance of mediation as a dispute resolution option.

GEMME is a European-wide organisation of Judges from Member States and the EFTA, committed to promoting mediation and other alternative methods to resolve disputes. Judge Bolger spoke about section 16 of the Mediation Act 2017, where a party or the court of its own volition can invite the parties to consider mediation; and section 15 of the Courts  and Civil Liability Act 2004 (as amended) where the Court can direct the parties to attend mediation. In acknowledging the difficulties in raising the public’s awareness of mediation as an option she asked the mediators attending to think about what judges can do to assist mediation practice, where appropriate.

Former Judge of the Court of Appeal, now mediator, Michael Peart, followed as a guest speaker. He spoke about the transition from the bench to practising as a mediator, a forum where he now helps parties in a dispute to find common ground, identify their interests and explore settlement options that are mutually acceptable; a forum where parties in dispute can avoid the stress and additional cost of litigation. He also spoke about raising awareness generally about the potential of section 16 of the Mediation Act 2017 and the fact that mediation remains viable right up to the point of a final determination. He noted that the IPMO is an outstanding example of an evangelical organisation, supporting the development of mediation as a profession.

Dr Róisín O’Shea, Chair of the IPMO moderated a lively discussion between the two guest speakers, contrasting the role of a judge and the forum of litigation to the facilitative role of a mediator within mediation; a forum where people can tell their stories and feel heard, while being assisted to explore creative solutions to resolve a dispute that may not be possible within the constraints of a legal process.

The shift to the use of on-line platforms and new technologies post the pandemic was evidenced by ease at which the next guest speaker presented from Australia via Zoom, with a camera providing the speaker with a view of the room.

Prof David Hodson OBE, solicitor, mediator, arbitrator and part-time family judge London, delivered an engaging presentation on the growing need of international families to deal with the break-down of marriage through mediation, the alternative being long, expensive and highly adversarial litigation and complex conflicts of law. He announced an initiative which commenced in late 2022, the International Family Mediation Project, where a group of international experts in the field of mediation led by David Hodson and Dr O’Shea, have volunteered to develop supports for mediators globally to create a form of international family mediation, which it is hoped will ultimately lead to an International Family Mediation Convention.

The conference ended with an interactive family mediation case study led by Shane Dempsey, Deputy Chair. He provided members with a fascinating snapshot of the issues that can arise on the break-down of a marriage, with attendee participation assisted by technology (Mentimeter) and Q&A.

In speaking to the achievements of the IPMO in its short life to date, Dr Róisín O’Shea, Chair,  commented, “ we are but a toddler, just over two years old and already 70 members strong. We have achieved so much in such a short time as outlined in the presentations by our committees today. On the invitation of the Department of Justice we are participating in the Family Justice Forum chaired by the Minister; we participated in the Department’s Statement of Strategy consultation; and we continue to engage in the consultations to establish the Mediation Council of Ireland. Our members come from 28 different professional backgrounds, and with a clear apprenticeship pathway of mentorship and supervision we are confident that our members will consistently provide a competent mediation service to the public, whatever the subject matter of the dispute may be.

We are pleased to announce that our members resoundingly voted today to amend our Constitution to be an all-island mediation membership body and our key focus is on raising awareness of what you can do in mediation, how quickly you can access the service and how cost effective that service is.

Mediation as a professional service will steadily grow assisting the people across the island of Ireland to self-determine workable solutions with the expert help of our members.  We recognise that we have only begun the journey to raise awareness of mediation, however, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and we hope that the day is not too far off when the people of Ireland see mediation as the preferred first step in the process to resolve any civil or commercial dispute.”

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