The amendment to the Mediation Bill passed in the Seanad just before the recess inserts a new provision in section 14, which requires a solicitor to advise a client that mediation is voluntary and may not be an appropriate means of resolving the dispute where the safety of the client and-or their children is a matter of risk.
I opposed this amendment for various legal reasons and my views are on the record in both the Seanad and here in Dáil Éireann following a detailed debate. I intend to keep the operation of the amendment under review to ensure that it does not have a detrimental effect on the effectiveness of the legislation, the fundamental purpose of which is to encourage the use of mediation by people to resolve their disputes rather than going down the costly and often stressful route of court proceedings and all that entails. Of course, by its very nature, mediation is a voluntary process. That is spelled out in the definition of mediation in section 2 of the Bill.
In the interests of speedy enactment and implementation of this important and long-awaited Bill, I am not opposing the amendment agreed by a majority and passed in the Seanad. However, based on the amendment being made, I would like to formally request a correction of the text of the Bill to move the word “and” from its current position on line 4 of page 15 to line 7 and to re-designate the original sub-paragraph (d) as sub-paragraph (e). This is necessary to ensure that the text reads correctly. I do not want to impose any undue complication or difficulty on Members but I believe it is essential that everything we do is clear so I ask the indulgence of Members of the House for this correction in the text of the Bill, which will ensure there is a proper and correct textual context.
I repeat that court proceedings can be very costly. They can also be very stressful and time-consuming. This Mediation Bill will promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to such court proceedings. Enactment of the Bill will speed up the resolution of disputes, reduce legal costs associated with these disputes and reduce or avoid the stress involved in court proceedings which, by their very nature, are adversarial.
Once the Bill is passed and enacted, I look forward to receiving submissions from interested parties regarding the publication of codes of practice for mediators under section 9 and the setting up of a scheme to provide mediation information sessions for people involved in family law disputes as provided for under section 23.
In addition, I repeat my call to various bodies active in the mediation sector to come together to meet, collaborate and submit proposals regarding the setting up of a mediation council as provided for in section 12 of the Bill. I believe the early establishment of such a body would provide further stimulus to the use of mediation following enactment of the legislation.
I repeat my thanks to Deputies for their support for this important legislation. I hope that we could complete debate on this issue in its entirety this evening, but I am in the hands of Deputies in that regard.