The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice announced this week that the long awaited Mediation Bill will be published in the Autumn, in response to a parliamentary question.
The announcement comes some four years after the General Scheme of the Bill was published in March 2012, during which time there appears to have been little progress and even less political will on behalf of the Government to bring the Bill forward.
Notwithstanding the lack of progress, there does appear to be broad political consensus that putting mediation on some sort of statutory footing is a good idea.
Statistics show that between 80-90% of all disputes referred to mediation settle. If used early on the dispute, mediation can save parties a very substantial sum in legal costs by avoiding Court.
The new Bill will contain a statutory obligation on solicitors and barristers to advise clients, prior to commencing court proceedings on their behalf, of the possibility of using mediation as an alternative means of dispute resolution. It is also likely to put the current Court procedure allowing a Court to stay proceedings in favour of mediation, either upon application of the parties or of its own volition, on a statutory footing.
The General Scheme of the Bill also reinforced two key tenets of mediation - that the process is entirely voluntary and entirely confidential; these will also likely feature heavily in the new Bill.
As to what else the Bill might contain, we can only wait and see. Let's hope its not another four years before its enacted!
The Tánaiste’s response to an oral PG posed by Deputy Josepha Madigan in the Dáil yesterday stated that the 2012 bill would be published in the autumn.