The Law Department of Maynooth University (MU), in conjunction with the Edward Kennedy Institute (MU), organised a National Conference on “In Whose Best Interests? Exploring the Use of Child Inclusive Mediation in Ireland Today” on Wednesday the 9th October 2019, with speakers from Ireland and Canada. The aim of the conference was to explore the extent to which the voice of the child is or could be heard within a mediation process, and to examine the potential use of mediation in child protection proceedings.
This conference, initiated by Ms Rebecca Murphy (PhD candidate exploring the extent child protection mediation could aid child welfare in Ireland), was an inter-disciplinary one, designed for all who might have an interest in mediation and child inclusive practices. The conference brought together representatives from the Child Care Law Reporting Project, Tusla (Child and Family Agency), the Legal Aid Board, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children, Children’s Rights Advocates, members of the Irish judiciary and various experienced family mediators to discuss their experiences of child inclusive mediation and the challenges and opportunities that we face now and, potentially, in the future.
During the conference, international speaker Mr Paul Brown (Child Protection Mediator from Toronto, Canada) and Ms Rebecca Murphy presented their experiences and research on child protection mediation. The conference concluded with Her Honour, Judge Rosemary Horgan, who informed the audience that mediation should never be seen as a panacea, but in appropriate cases, could be seen as a powerful tool in child protection proceedings. The other speakers included Dr Ann O’Kelly (Family Mediator, Researcher and Trainer), Ms Marianne Joyce (Youth Researcher in Galway University), Ms Fiona McAuslan (Director of the Family Mediation Services).
This was the beginning of an important conversation about how mediation can continue to support the important area of child welfare in Ireland.