by Lorraine Lally, LL.B in Irish Law, LLM (International Human Rights), Practising Barrister & Mediator Chairperson NRM Network (National Register of Mediators), Ireland
The NRM Network (National Register of Mediators) are seeking to mark Mediation Week 2020 (3rd week in October) with a call on the government to fully implement the existing legislation to facilitate the settlement of disputes by mediation. The plan for the Mediation Council of Ireland was included in the Mediation Act 2017 to permit mediation to be an active source of dispute resolution in Ireland. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic there is a timely opportunity now to develop online mediation platforms. This will allow for parties to engage in online mediation, resulting to expedite resolutions in a pandemic climate that looks set to be with us well into the future. Progress now requires oversight by the yet to be established Mediation Council of Ireland.
The process of recruitment for State Boards and State Panels could be used to form an independent council from a variety of professions and expertise in the implementation of the Mediation Act 2017. Under section 13 of the legislation there would be a requirement on the part of the Mediation Council of Ireland to make a report to the Minister on the performance of its functions under this Act and on its activities during the preceding year. Part 3 of the Mediation Act 2017 deals with the obligations of practising solicitors and practising barristers as regards mediation which would allow for a clear path of accountability and act as a regulator in relation to the code of conduct for mediators. It is important that all legal practitioners practising mediation ensure that they update their professional indemnity insurance with the information in relation to the provision of mediation services. As a barrister there is a note and a record kept that provides for mediation coverage. It was envisaged that mediation would be used in construction cases where the parties may have a variety of complex legal agreements. Mediated agreements in these cases would result in a positive impact on the insurance costs in Ireland.
The European Union has pushed for all member States to actively use mediation to deal with disputes.The Mediation Act 2017 permits parties to litigation to adjourn court proceedings to facilitate mediation. Online mediation would be a viable option at this time of Covid-19 where the parties engaged could actively resolve issues. The legislation further requires the utilisation of mediation information sessions in family law and succession proceedings which at this current time could be permitted to occur online. It is more urgent now than ever that the Mediation Council be formed to oversee and support the requirements set out in the legislation. As chairperson of the NRM Network, we call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to make an order now to provide a Mediation Council of Ireland for the purposes of the Act to ensure accountability and maximise the potential of the legislation to provide optimal dispute resolution by mediation.
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