Community Mediation in Ireland. From theory to practice in community mediation centres

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Javiera Carrasco
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Community Mediation is a practice in the Alternative Dispute Resolution field that aims to tackle conflict inside communities, prevent escalation, and contribute to building peaceful and more democratic spaces. Studies on the area describe the potential of mediation to empower communities and the difficulties of maintaining the schemes in the long term due to financial problems or the cooptation risk of the practice by the legal system. The present research looks to learn about Community Mediation in Ireland and explore the tension between the theory and potential of mediation with the difficulties of its implementation and limitation given by the Irish context. To achieve this, the researcher collected qualitative information from people working on three Community Mediation Services currently operating in Ireland: Community Law and Mediation, Ballymun Community and Law Centre, and Mediation Border Counties. The information was gathered through in-depth semi-structured interviews, which then were transcribed and analysed through thematic analysis. The main result of the research shows the relevance given by the services to the principles and values of the Community Mediation in their practice, the motivation for promoting non-adversarial ways of solving conflict, and the value that these initiatives can have on the communities. Also, it highlights the systemic difficulties that the schemes find to broaden their work and grow the services, mainly given by lack of awareness of community mediation, absence of institutional support by mediation bodies and the constant struggle for funding. Overall, the research systematises the centres' experiences to contribute to the debate about Community Mediation's place in Ireland and proposes possible areas for discussion and reflection about its future.
Carrasco, 2021