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Raising awareness of the mediation process is essential and it must be distinguished from other dispute resolution approaches such as arbitration, according to a new report on the Mediation Bill by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.

As part of hearings in relation to the Scheme of the Mediation Bill, the Committee was told that that awareness of mediation and its benefits was very low generally and needed to be addressed if the legislation is to be as effective as possible.

Chairman of the Committee, Deputy David Stanton said: “Society needs to be informed of the potential benefits of mediation in dispute resolution and that it is not always necessary for disputes to be resolved through litigation. It is clear from the excellent submissions made and the informative and open interactions during the public hearing process entered into by the justice committee that mediation should be viewed as an empowering process for those involved in a dispute.”

The Committee received 16 submissions on the Heads of the Mediation Bill and held public hearings on the 9th and 23rd of May to examine in further detail some of the main points raised.

Among the report’s key observations are:

· The absence of any regulation of mediation practice is one of the main concerns. The Committee was reminded that very often mediators deal with very vulnerable people who are under enormous stress and it is vital that protections are in place for all clients.

· It was submitted to the Committee that it would be desirable to have an umbrella group that would ensure all mediators would be subject to a disciplinary and grievance procedure.

· It was submitted that it be mandatory for all mediators to publish a Code of Conduct under which they practice.

· A clear Code of Conduct would allow clients to be informed throughout the mediation process, what the process is aiming to achieve and what it is not aiming to achieve.

· The Committee was also told that in Ireland the general public cannot access a single list or register of mediators allowing any person to put up a sign and call themselves a mediator

· Confidentiality is seen as the cornerstone to successful mediation. It was put to the Committee that the integrity and success of mediation relies on the confidence the parties have that everything discussed in mediation will be, within reason, completely confidential.

Deputy Stanton concluded: “This is the sixth time that the Committee has undertaken a similar process of conducting hearings into the Heads of a Bill and in each case we have had a very positive response from stakeholders, interested parties and the public. I would like to express my thanks to all those who took part in this process and all the points raised in your submissions have been noted. I look forward to the publication of the Bill and further engagement with the Minister as the Bill progresses through the Houses. I would also like to thank the Members of the Joint Committee for their participation and hope that this process will result in legislation that is progressive and which has the desired effect.”

Read the report here: