Mediators are dealing with an increased number of construction disputes sparked by pandemic delays and rising prices, according to the new president of the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland, Ber Barry-Murray.
"There are people across the country who were contracted pre-Covid and now with delays, increased costs, etc there are a lot of relationship issues and contractual issues, and mediation is an ideal way to resolve that.”
Barry-Murray said disputes typically related to one-off houses and extensions.
Speed and costs are among the reasons why mediation is gaining traction.
"People more and more just want to get something sorted in a timely way, it doesn’t mean it’s cheap but it’s inexpensive because there is less time involved in it.”
In the past, commercial rows were more confrontational, she said.
“The leader of the 21st century is a leader who looks to say ‘what are my connections with the people I am working with, how do I look to create space when we can have difference without it being embroiled in legalities’. Because difference is fine and it’s problem solving in a different way.”
Barry-Murray added confidentially was a big draw when it comes to rows which might get attention from the public and media in a court setting.
“A business wants to be presented with its credibility and reputation intact.
"Once that’s broken and they go into court, it really has a huge impact on the share price, the ability to attract people into the workplace so by holding these meetings privately, many, many people find it can actually be closed off and they can move on with the business.”
The Institute has more than 700 members. “Any dispute can be resolved through mediation and it is becoming the mechanism of choice for most people. There was a time when it was considered to be only used for family cases but it’s being used now in so many different areas such as agricultural disputes, workplace disputes, commercial disputes.”
Barry-Murray takes over from management consultant Margaret Considine as president and said the membership was split around 50/50 male to female. The Institute’s commercial sector representative is former banker Brid O’Donovan, while the workplace representative is Niamh Fitzpatrick.