Chairman’s Annual Report 2011 2012 (Edited)
(My term of office as Chairman came to an end on May 16th 2012. Thanks to all for a great honour and a most fulfilling experience)
The year under review, like a great deal else in Ireland in recent times has been dominated by issues arising from or the fallout of the recession.
It affected participation in branch events, take up on training and other events and on membership itself. And yet paradoxically as business strives for improved ways of avoiding and resolving disputes the services we offer may come in to their own.
My purpose in this report is twofold.
The first is to give members of the Institute in Ireland a picture of what their committee has been doing for the last year.
The second is to offer my own brief assessment of where the Irish branch is going after my three years of very close involvement with the institute.
The committee of the branch held eleven ordinary meetings and one special meeting. Attendance at meetings is excellent with an average attendance of 10 meetings.
Events & Training
The following is a brief list of the main events undertaken by the committee in the course of the year since the AGM 2011m Transnational Mediation, Belfast, September, International Young Arbitrators event, Distillery Building, Dublin November,International Commercial Arbitration Course, Malahide, 9th May 2011 , Introduction to Mediation Engineers Ireland May, Accredited Mediation Training, Stillorgan, June 2011, Debt mediation seminar IPA Dublin June, Evening at Hugh Lane Gallery (with CPLA) July, Award Writing (with the Law Society) Blackhall Place September, ADR in Australia; lessons for Ireland, Doug Jones Radisson Hotel Dublin November, Introduction to Arbitration (Ethiopia) February, Workplace Mediation Training (x 2) Lynn House Dublin, 2010 Arbitration Act Mason Hayes & Curran Dublin March (Young Members Group), Marketing your Mediation Practice April Lynn House April.
Annual Golf competition, Greystones, June, Annual Dinner, Westbury Hotel November
Accredited Mediator course June 7th (confirmed)
Kenneth McQuillan lecture (advanced, due May)
YMG Event Arthur Cox April 30th
YMG event Coolock July 2nd
It is worth highlighting the two major conferences; on transnational mediation with the NI Chapter in Belfast and an International Young Arbitrators event at which delegates from 20 countries attended. The attendance at the Belfast event was disappointing but the event was excellent with a high quality panel of speakers including Mr Justice John Gillen, judge of the N.Ireland High court.
It is hoped that the Chapter will hold a regular event in the future and one is currently under planning.
I wish to record a special word of thanks to members of the branch who are not on the committee who assisted with these events.
Especially to Arran Dowling-Hussey for his contribution to the Young Member’s conference in November and the YMG events. To John O’Brien for the golf and to all members of sub committees
The Main issues on which the Branch was engaged were the Construction Contracts Bill and latterly the scheme for Mediation Bill. Submissions were made on both matters; to the Minister in the first case and to the Oireachtas committee on Justice, who we will be meeting on May 9th
The Construction sub committee has been giving consideration to how we should best respond to the enactment of the Adjudication Bill and a detailed submission was sent to the Minister in January.
Again the input of committee members and others into both these documents should be acknowledged.
Both submissions are available on the website
Regular press statements were issued during the year; in relation to various events and also on the Construction Contracts and Mediation legislation.
Our new website, while it receives quite a lot of traffic is not delivering on its potential for a reason that is common to much of the deficits on our work; lack of manpower resources to update and market it. Nonetheless, it remains a vital tool.
Despite living in the digital age we continue to get requests from members for something in hard copy and did produce one issue of our newsletter during the year; the first since 2010 and a second is imminent.
The number of appointments made fell somewhat on the previous year but that was unusually high compared to previous years.
I return below to the issue of building the Institute as the point of ‘first call’ for ADR users in Ireland which is the real issue.
The Dublin Dispute Resolution Centre
Beginning in the term of office of my predecessor Terence O’Keeffe an idea was under discussion to create a Dublin Dispute resolution centre which would provide a focal point for arbitrations, mediation etc in Ireland and also offer a launch pad for the campaign to develop Dublin as a seat for international arbitrations.
I am very happy to report that following an input of very considerable time and effort by many people this project is reaching fruition.
It involves a significant refurbishment of the Arbitration centre in the Distillery building and the creation of a new joint venture between CIArb and the Bar Council to manage and develop the project which is soon to be finalised.
There will be an investment by both parties in the venture and it will be directed and run by a new company with the two bodies as joint shareholders.
Our discussions have involved a rigorous review of the proposed business plan for the project and the application of the considerable planning and architectural talent at our disposal on, and via the committee on the refurbishment.
We have taken, or are still in the process of taking independent business and legal advice on all relevant aspect of the projects and it has the strong support of the committee.
This is more than a commercial venture. It brings the Institute into a strategic alliance with the Bar and allows us to promote and position CIArb as the prime independent centre for dispute resolution.
CIArb is being challenged on its flanks on one side by CEDR and in the mediation space by MII. We need to respond to this in the way any business would.
This falls within the strategy we have been evolving to extend our reach into the business community and the professions, and for example to become the preferred supplier of training and CPD in alternative dispute resolution.
The option of relocating the branch office to the Distillery building is also under discussion.
Looking to the future
I have spent my career working for membership organisations. I understand well the mix of factors that determine why a person will join, remain a member and in some cases leave.
It is rarely a simple financial calculation, although this depends. But at some point the question as to whether, in the very broadest sense it is ‘value for money’ arises.
I offer the following thoughts on the direction ahead I see for the branch.
They fall under three headings.
We need to develop our capacity for the highest level training we can on this island, what we refer to as our faculty. Some progress was made during the year but more is needed.
Next, how we build the brand and the services of CIArb. Can this be done on the basis of our existing governance model.
Or do we examine greater professionalisation of our management and the marketing of our suite of services to Irish business and the professions
Our strengths lie in a diverse membership of people hugely interested in ADR and who possess enormous expertise in the subject. They have a huge commitment to the brand that is CIArb.
The opportunity presented now as ADR goes ‘mainstream’ is to push CIArb to the forefront of the organisations in the field and it is there for the taking. Indeed, I would say that our ambition in this regard is limited only by a lack of resources which even the most dedicated committee of volunteers will have trouble bridging.
I see no reason why the appointments being made by future Chairmen should not be in the hundreds. Business organisations in the main, but solicitors and others are the key here. Communicating the message that ADR is good for business and that CIArb is a logical partner in delivering those outcomes requires no new science to bring it to fruition.
As we move into partnership in the Dispute Resolution project; a professional business, we need to consider professionalising other aspects of our work including marketing; developing a commercial focus, making a real impact with Irish business and delivering on the value for money I spoke about earlier and which members expect and are entitled to expect.
These then are the questions. Some of the answers are fairly obvious although agreeing and implementing them will require careful thought and may pose some fairly fundamental questions about how the branch is resourced in Ireland within the overall CIArb family.
As Chairman I tried within the limits of an honorary, if onerous role to lead the Institute in the direction of building new partnerships, promoting the message that ADR is good for business and that CIArb is good for ADR.
Regarding our membership of the global brand that is CIArb this is a huge advantage to us. However, there are aspects of how the relationship with London works that need to be reviewed.
The decision to increase membership subscriptions in the middle of a recession and the manner it was done showed some detachment from reality, to be frank. We have a new Director-General now Mr Anthony Abrahams to whom I send our best wishes and urge him to join us in ironing out some of these issues.
While our paper membership remains at just under 750, those members are proving very slow to renew this year. Increasing their subscription was hardly a help.
CIArb in Ireland is a well of such potential to current and future members that some of the things I have referred to are vital for the future prosperity of the branch and its members, and more importantly of alternative dispute resolution in Ireland.
In conclusion, I wish to thank all who made my term in office enjoyable; my immediate predecessors in the Chair, and on whose committees I served and learned, the current committee members and sub committee members.
Also to Kate our administrator a big thank you.
It has been a privilege to serve as your Chairman that I will always treasure.