Alan Shatter announces ‘general scheme’ of a Mediation Bill

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D. has said “The Mediation Bill will give effect to the undertaking in the Programme of the Government for National Recovery (2011 – 2016) to encourage and facilitate the use of mediation to resolve civil, commercial and family disputes.”

The Minister added “The general objective of the Bill is to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings thereby reducing legal costs, speeding up the resolution of disputes and relieving the stress involved in court proceedings. I am anxious to ensure that individuals and companies engaged in a dispute regard resolution of their dispute through mediation as preferable to court litigation.”

The General Scheme builds on the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in their ‘Report on Alternative Dispute Resolution – Mediation and Conciliation’ which you can read here

The following are highlights in the proposed Bill:

· the imposition of a statutory requirement on solicitors and barristers to tell clients about the possibility of using mediation as an alternative means of resolving disputes prior to commencing court proceedings;

· a requirement that all communications between parties as they try to resolve a dispute using mediation shall be confidential;

· it will remain for the parties themselves to decide whether to engage in mediation and, indeed, to decide on the terms of any agreement arising from the mediation;

· the provision of a statutory basis for the courts to invite parties to consider the mediation option and to adjourn court proceedings for the duration of the process.

-a requirement that mediators advise parties of their qualifications.

The draft Bill is to go to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality which has to forward its views prior to finalisation of the Bill and the Minister is asking the Committee to revert to him no later than the 1 June next.

The Bill extends to employment disputes but not if they have already been referred to the Labour Relations Commission