Blog 29th June 2012

New Mediation Bill to Expand the Use of Mediation in Civil Disputes

The Minister for Justice and Equality recently published a Draft General Scheme of a Mediation Bill which introduces a legislative framework for mediation to provide enforceable solutions to a wide range of civil disputes. Simply put, mediation is a structured process whereby two or more parties to a dispute attempt to reach agreement on the settlement of their dispute with the assistance of a mediator.

Mediation is a flexible, private and voluntary way of resolving disputes which focuses on the interests of the parties, rather than the more formal processes at court where disputing parties are pitted against each other to determine whose rights should trump the other.

If used appropriately, mediation can be highly beneficial, and can have advantages over litigating in court. Disputing parties can come to a greater understanding of each others’ views, leading to improved or restored relations. Grievances can be aired away from public view, and creative solutions to disagreements can be tailor-made to the parties’ needs and interests. Rather than the public, confrontational nature of a court hearing, parties are encouraged to work together to seek common ground, and to proactively seek a fair and pragmatic settlement for the benefit of all parties in so far as is possible in the circumstances.

The Mediation Bill, as currently drafted, introduces an obligation on solicitors and barristers to inform clients prior to commencing court proceedings about the possibility of using mediation as an alternative. It also provides a statutory basis for the courts to invite parties to consider mediation and to adjourn court proceedings while it is being considered. Where parties enter into mediation, this must be done entirely at their own discretion and costs associated with mediation must be reasonable and proportionate. All communications during mediation shall be confidential. The Bill also provides that the Minister may introduce a Code of Practice for the purpose of setting and maintaining standards for the provision and operation of mediation services.

Mediation is currently used in various guises to resolve family disputes, certain employment disputes and commercial disputes. MLRC has already had a number of successful mediation outcomes in equality cases at the Equality Tribunal Mediation Service against local authorities on behalf of clients. MLRC would support the introduction of a designated mediation service as a suitable tool for resolving disputes between individuals and local authorities in relation to social housing issues. This could cover a range of disputes including eligibility for and access to social housing, transfer requests and eviction proceedings.

The Draft General Scheme of the Mediation Bill can be viewed here.

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Blog 22nd June 2012

Bjedov v Croatia ­– is the European Court of Human Rights moving towards providing a substantive right to a home?

In the recent case of Bjedov v Croatiabefore the European Court of Human Rights (42150/09 29th May 2012), a Croatian woman was granted a right to purchase her rented accommodation on the basis of her right to protection of her home under Article 8 ECHR. The ruling was made in the applicant’s favour despite her occupancy being illegal, and despite a counterclaim taken by the relevant local authority, seeking her eviction.  To read more click here.

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Blog 15th June 2012

Children’s Law Centre to Open in Ireland

MLRC welcomes the establishment of an independent Law Centre for Children and young people in the Republic of Ireland. Earlier this year, a steering committee secured funding to establish the Centre and to fund its operation for the first two years.

The Centre will advise and undertake litigation, including strategic litigation and the support for and initiation of cases on behalf of children. It will also contribute to policy development in matters relating to children and the law.  Children’s law centres have achieved notable successes in the UK and Northern Ireland in areas including disability, the provision of suitable care and accommodation, education, child protection and immigration.

Much of the work which MLRC undertakes in the areas of social housing law and social welfare law on behalf of its clients has a direct impact on the welfare of children.  55% of our clients are parents. MLRC advocates that the welfare of children should be a central consideration for the provision, allocation and suitability of accommodation for our clients.

MLRC looks forward to working with the new Law Centre for Children which, it is hoped, will provide much needed support structures and expertise to communities in this significant area of law.

Click here to read more from the Irish Times article written by Noeline Blackwell.

Public Consultation on the new National Children’s Strategy

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has launched a new public consultation which will feed into the development of the new National Children’s Strategy and other key policies.

The consultation is open to any interested persons, and the closing date for the receipt of consultation forms is 6th July 2012.  Click here to read more and participate.

MLRC welcomes Brian Barry

MLRC is delighted to welcome Brian Barry, apprentice solicitor to our offices here at 25 Cork Street.  Brian is an apprentice at Mason, Hayes and Curran who have generously agreed that Brian work with MLRC as an intern for the next 3 months.

Brian is a graduate of the TCD Law School where he is completing a PhD thesis “Reforming the Framework for Employment Litigation and Dispute Responsibility in Ireland”.  Brian is an Executive Board Member of the Employment Law Association of Ireland.

He delivered the teaching of seminars on the Employment Law module at Trinity College Dublin and has presented on the topic of Employment Dispute Resolution at a range of conferences and events.   Brian will be speaking at a Conference in the Law School of Trinity College on Saturday, 30th June 2012, entitled Employment Law Update.

MLRC also acknowledge the generosity of MHC both in terms of their financial support of the Centre and the provision of much needed key staff.  We look forward to Brian’s contribution to the work we are undertaking with the most marginalised in our society.

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All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this Blog and any person or entity unless otherwise specified.   Click here to read more.

Blog 8th June 2012

MLRC Befriending Programme

The Befriending programme is an invaluable asset to MLRC as we recognise that the legal system can be alienating to our clients and difficult and frustrating to negotiate.  We aim to provide our clients with a service that is friendly and easy to access.  Volunteers are available to befriend clients in order to accompany them and provide them with emotional support as they go through the difficult process of trying to assert their rights.

We also recognise that our clients may have a range of legal and other underlying problems which need to be addressed holistically. We are committed to helping clients identify these issues and to link in with other legal and support services as needed.  Appropriate referrals are key to the service we provide.

The role of befriender may entail such activities as helping the individual to fill in forms, accompanying her/him to court, helping her/him to turn up to appointments, etc.

Training is provided to all volunteers who also have the support of regular group meetings where peer support is provided.  MLRC provides on-going training and periodic reviews and supervision takes place with the Volunteer Coordinator.

At present, MLRC has twelve clients who are befriended, 10 women and 2 men and we currently have 10 active Befrienders.

MLRC has recently put an advertisement onto the Active Link website for volunteers and we have had several replies.  MLRC hope to train some additional Befrienders by the end of June.   Click here if you would like more information on the activelink volunteering.

Caitriona O’Hara is Co-ordinator of the befriending programme and she gives some examples of the volunteering work carried out by our existing befrienders and how they have helped our clients deal with many aspects of their lives.

One client has been helped by her Befriender to find less expensive accommodation and has also enabled a family member to get a proper psychiatric assessment with a view to suitable treatment.   She is also being helped to get further qualifications which will enable her to secure employment and more financial security in the future.

Another client has been supported in her decision to leave an abusive family situation.  She has now been enabled to have her social welfare entitlements reinstated, has been granted rent supplement and has set up a home for herself and some of her children.  She has enrolled on a course of further education and is receiving on-going support from her befriender to boost her confidence and enable her to begin a new life for herself.

Caitriona recognises that most of the present clients need emotional as well as practical supports.   Befrienders provide them with this encouragement and support as they move forward with their lives.

Click here to find out more from our website.

Rialto Rights-In-Action Group publish Report on Dolphin House

Rose Wall, Solicitor at MLRC wrote in the Law Society Gazette in June 2011 regarding adequate housing and the responsibility of the local authorities to their residents.  To read the Law Society Gazette article click here.

Rose stated “CESCR (the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) General Comment 4 provides that “adequate housing must be habitable, in terms of providing the inhabitants with adequate space and protecting them from cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health”.  Many local authority homes are not maintained to an adequate standard, and regeneration projects have been delayed or put on hold. One highly publicised example is Dolphin House, where residents have experienced unprecedented levels of damp, mould and sewage in their homes.”

MLRC is working with Rialto Rights in Action Group to ensure Dolphin House has adequate and habitable housing conditions for its residents.  Rialto Rights in Action Group have recently launched a report highlighting the problems, here are two articles published recently in the Irish Independent.

Merged Rights and Equality Commission Bill Published

The Heads of a Bill to replace the Equality Authority and Human Rights Commission with a new merged body have been published by the Minister for Justice.  Click here to read the Irish Times article by Carol Coulter.

MLRC have made submission to the bill as have the Equality Rights Alliance.  The ERA has produced a 2 page synopsis of some of the positive developments proposed in the draft Bill as well as their key concerns.  Click here to read more.


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All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this Blog and any person or entity unless otherwise specified.   Click here to read more.