The three-day conference, which will be formally opened by former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, will be attended by 200 delegates, including mediation practitioners, trade union officials as well as policy makers. They will be addressed by experts from Britain, the US, Europe and Ireland. The event is being held at NUI Maynooth’s Edward M Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention.
Ahead of the conference, the institute’s executive director Peter Cassells said that over the past number of decades, mediation had continued to evolve as an internationally recognised discipline and that Ireland had remained at the forefront of its development. He also pointed out the importance of mediation structures to Irish society today.
For example, in the commercial sphere, he said that in the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly had been telling companies that, if there was a dispute, for example over payments or intellectual property, he would hear the case but that the parties should first go through mediation.
“It takes much longer to go through the courts — it can take two years, whereas mediation can take a month or two,” he said. “Furthermore, the parties are much more likely to continue the relationship afterwards.”
One of the speakers will be Jane Gunn, considered to be Britain’s leading “corporate peacemaker” who is also the author of How to Beat Bedlam in the Boardroom and Boredom in the Bedroom.
An area of the conference which will be topical for Ireland will be on “community” conflict resolution.
It is the type of mediation which would deal with the likes of the ongoing disputes over pylons and windfarms and would have been applicable during the furore over the Garth Brooks concerts at the start of the summer.
“We are taking these international experts and trying to learn from them,” said Mr Cassells.
“Policy makers are interested because if they are bringing in legislation they need to build in mediation clauses from the beginning.”