The Legal Aid Board’s new co-located law centre and mediation centre in Sligo was opened this morning (21 July) by James Browne (Minister of State at the Department of Justice with responsibility for Law Reform).
Minister Browne said that the co-located office was a significant development in the provision of the board’s services in the north-west region.
“A person who comes seeking the assistance of the board will already be in a difficult personal situation, and may assume that the legal avenue is the only option open to them to address their situation.
“Having the mediation service physically adjacent to the civil legal-aid service provides convenience to the client and will encourage referrals between the two services where this is appropriate, having regard to the circumstances of the individual,” the minister said.
He acknowledged the pivotal role that the Legal Aid Board plays in society, providing as it does both legal aid in civil-law matters to those who cannot afford legal representation, and a mediation service, which seeks to resolve family disputes without recourse to legal proceedings.
Anyone seeking mediation to assist with the resolution of a family problem can apply to any of the Legal Aid Board’s family-mediation offices.
The second party also needs to contact the same office to confirm interest in attending mediation. There is no charge for the mediation service, and it is not means tested.
Chair Nuala Jackson SC said: “We are focusing closely on the potential for the family mediation services provided by the board to become more central to our overall offering to persons who may otherwise assume that formal, and often adversarial, court proceedings are the only viable option in family-breakdown situations.
“While it is clear that there must be a court process to resolve certain family situations, where the parties are willing, I believe that mediation can and will play an increasingly important role in resolving difficult family-breakdown situations, which will benefit those involved, and also the wider family-law system and, indeed, with significant societal advantage,” she said.
The co-located unit is at Floor 2, Bridgewater House, Rockwood Parade, Thomas Street, Sligo, F91 Y9YY.
The Legal Aid Board has a network of 30 full-time law centres and 17 mediation offices located throughout the country.