A new meditation service in Laois was launched last week at County Hall, offering an alternative resolution to legal action for people or groups involved in disputes.
The Laois Community Mediation Service is a free, voluntary service which promises to act as an independent middleman between parties embroiled in disagreements and offer impartial advice to reach the best solution for all involved.
Speaking at the launch, county manager Mr Peter Carey said it was an absolutely fantastic initiative and would be a valuable service to the community.
“A service like this has never been more wanted and without the work of the volunteers it simply would not be possible,” he said.
Portarlington native and mediator, Ms Tricia Hayes explained that there are currently 15 mediators, all of whom have volunteered their services.
“Community mediation is about people having an alternative place to go when they’re in a dispute,” said Ms Hayes. “They can contact an impartial, neutral person to help them.”
Her colleague on the service, Mr Chris Uys said there are mediators in Laois, Carlow, Clare and North Tipperary and all the volunteers “sing from the same hymn sheet”.
“We don’t want money, we want your support, we want you to give the service your support,” he told the audience. “We’re a motley crew from different walks of life and there is no hierarchy... we hope to hear from people who have trouble.”
Guest speaker at the launch was community mediator, Ms Marie Ní Mhaolmhichil, who described the service as “a gift to the people of Laois, Portlaoise and the Midlands”.
“I feel like I’ve been invited to a christening or a naming ceremony of a new baby: this new arrival has been long awaited, is really wanted and it is needed,” she said.
Ms Ní Mhaolmhichil went on to say that the secret to solving disputes is early intervention.
Among the speakers was CEO of Laois Partnership, Ms Anne Goodwin, who gave the service a cautious welcome.
“I don’t wish you success, because success means there’s trouble in communities, but this is a very important service,” she said. “There are seven groups already engaging with the service: that’s seven problems and seven solutions.”
MC for the launch was conflict mediator, Ms Rebecca Bowell, who said that a mediation service was never more relevant than it is today. Mayor of Laois County Council, Cllr Marty Phelan also welcomed the mediation service, saying that he had no doubt it would be of great use to many groups in the community.