Free Legal Advice Clinics Limerick: May 2024

Community Law and Mediation Limerick is an independent law and mediation centre which provides free legal information, advice, advocacy and representation in the following areas of law:

  • Housing Issues
  • Social Welfare
  • Debt
  • Consumer Issues
  • Employment
  • Family Law (advice only)  
  • Access to Education
  • Equality
  • Homelessness
  • Environmental Justice

Please see our upcoming Limerick dates for February:

Place (Limerick)DateTime
Our Lady of Lourdes Community Centre, Ballinacurra Weston 7th May 2024 10.30am – 12.00pm 
Southill Community Centre  
15th May 2024 
10.30am – 12.00pm
Moyross Community Centre  
22nd May 2024 
10.30am – 12.00pm 
St Mary’s Alms House, Nicholas St, Limerick 28th May 2024 10.30am – 12.00pm 

The service is free and available to people living in the regeneration areas & to residents of other underserved areas within Limerick City. To book in for free legal advice, please use our booking form by clicking here. You can make a booking for any time during the month of June.

Phone clinics are also available.

Phone: 061 536 100

Email: limerick@communitylawandmediation.ie

CLM Limerick
CLM Limerick

Blog Post – Access to Social Housing and Section 15 reports.

In recent months we have seen an increase in issues related to Section 15 reports presenting at our free legal advice clinics.  

What is a Section 15 report and why does it matter? 

Under sections 14 and 15 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997, local authorities can request the background information of a person who has applied for social housing. This information, known as a Section 15 report, can be requested from another housing authority, other specified organisations or persons, including An Garda Síochána.  

Section 15 reports are often requested by a local authority just before they make an offer of housing to an individual. The contents of these reports can have a significant impact on whether that offer is made, or whether the individual has been suspended from the list.  

Despite the potential far reaching impact of a Section 15 report, local authorities often refuse to disclose the report to the person affected, giving them no opportunity to review or respond to its contents. 

What is the local authority’s obligation in relation to the disclosure of Section 15 reports?

All local authorities are legally obliged to disclose the contents of a Section 15 Report to the person who is the subject of the report as a matter of natural justice and fair procedures. There is no general lawful basis for local authorities to refuse to disclose Section 15 Reports where requested, under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 or otherwise.

However, there is no consistent policy or transparency across local authorities around the disclosure of these reports to the individuals concerned, and many refuse to disclose them outright. 

A positive outcome for our client 

Recently, we were delighted to have a positive outcome for a client who had been suspended from the housing list by their local authority on the basis of a Section 15 report prepared by An Garda Síochána.  We appealed the suspension,  and our client was reinstated to the housing list. In January, after six years living in emergency accommodation, she and her family finally received an offer of social housing.  

In the course of our work on this case, we encountered huge difficulties in accessing the Section 15 report relating to our client, with even our request for the report under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 being denied. At no point was our client given an opportunity to read or respond to the contents of the report. This created real challenges for our client in trying to appeal her suspension from the housing list. 

We made a complaint on behalf of our client to the Office of the Information Commissioner, and following an investigation, the local authority reversed its position and released a copy of the report to our client. Significantly, the local authority in question reviewed its policy, and committed to disclosing all Section 15 reports going forward. 

Next steps 

We have since written to the Housing Agency and the Department of Housing, requesting that all local authorities are reminded of their constitutional duty to disclose Section 15 reports, and to ensure consistency and transparency across the board. 

How can we help you? 

Contact us for free legal advice in the areas of homelessness, housing, employment, environmental, social welfare, family and children’s law. Appointments can be booked by phoning 01 847 7804 or visiting our website to book an appointment online.  

CLM Legal Service 2024: Are you a Traveller experiencing accommodation difficulties? 

In 2023, Community Law & Mediation launched free legal advice clinics on accommodation issues specifically for members of the Traveller community. 

In 2024, we will continue to support Travellers with free legal advice on issues relating to accommodation, such as but not limited to, access to social housing, access to emergency accommodation and discrimination in accommodation matters. 

In our work as an independent law centre, we see a huge unmet need for legal advice for members of the Traveller community in accommodation issues.   

The Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) has described the accommodation situation as an “accommodation crisis”. Travellers face specific challenges in accessing appropriate, quality and sustainable accommodation, as well as challenges in obtaining reasonable loans to cover the costs of accommodation and other essential living expenses. Issues with poor accommodation intersect with other areas of life, such as, health, education, employment, mental health and opportunity for social inclusion. Furthermore, Travellers experience both day-to-day and systemic discrimination, based on their identity, in trying to access accommodation.   

These free legal advice clinics aim to give meaningful access to justice for Travellers through providing legal advice around accommodation issues.  

When are the clinics taking place: 

Our next clinic will be held on Monday, the 25th of March, with appointments taking place between 11am and 1pm. We will update this page with further information when our next clinic dates are released. 

Each appointment is 40 minutes long. You are welcome to bring a friend, family member and/ or advocate with you to the appointment. 

How to book into the free legal advice clinics: 

To book into these clinics, you must contact us in advance of the clinic date. You can contact us: 

  • By phone on 01 847 7804; 

A Call to Action: Have your say on Part 9 of the Planning and Development Bill 2023 (Judicial Review).

Part 9 of the Planning and Development Bill 2023 relates to proposed changes to the judicial review process, which ensures that statutory bodies such as An Bord Pleanála make decisions in accordance with the law. The process itself is not easy to engage in, and a judicial review application is only successful if there has been a breach of law or process.

If part 9 of the bill is passed in its current form, it will will make it more difficult and costly for citizens, community and environmental groups and residents’ associations to challenge planning decisions which affect their communities and the environment.

It will introduce a requirement that a list of the names and addresses of those who vote in favour of bringing judicial proceedings is submitted in court documents – this can only be designed to produce a chilling effect and scare local groups off potential challenges.  It will also restrict environmental NGOs from taking legal action unless they fulfil arbitrary preconditions, such as being a company with ten or more members. 

Community, environmental and residents’ groups play a vital role in helping make their neighbourhood a better place to live, and should be empowered hold the government to account when they make decisions which aren’t in accordance with the law. 

Are you concerned about the implications of part 9 of the Planning and Development Bill?

  • Below, you can find a useful email template in PDF and Word format that we have created for you to edit accordingly, to send on to the TDs in your constituency or the Minister for Housing. You can also download the template as a word document here.
  • If you have concerns about the bill which are not included in our template, please feel free to add in.
  • Having trouble finding your TDs? Visit here to find the contact details of your local TD

Town Hall Meeting on the Planning and Development Bill 2023 and Proposed changes to Judicial Review (Online)

Calling all citizens, residents’ associations, community and environmental groups!

Join us to find out more about how changes to judicial review will impact you!

Community Law & Mediation invites you to an online Town Hall meeting on the Planning and Development Bill 2023 on Tuesday 6th February 7.30-8.30pm.

Hear from legal experts, resident’s associations and environmental groups on the proposed changes to judicial review (in Part 9 of the Bill), and the impact that they will have on how citizens, residents’ associations, community and environmental groups engage with the planning system and challenge planning decisions which affect their communities and the environment.

The Bill is currently progressing through the Oireachtas, with Committee Stage expected to commence in February.

We hope you can attend, and we look forward to hearing your views!

Agenda

  • Introduction: What is Part 9 of the Planning and Development Bill, and how does it impact you? Gavin Elliott, Environmental Justice Lawyer at Community Law & Mediation.

  • Residents’ associations and environmental groups: Why the judicial review process is important, experiences of taking a judicial review, and the impact of the proposed changes: Robin Mandal, Chairperson of the Dublin Democratic Planning Alliance. Mary O’Leary, Chairperson of Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment.

  • Conclusion: A call to action Rose Wall, CEO of Community Law & Mediation.

Please click here to register for this event.

We would be most grateful if you could share the below post, and others shared on social media in coming days with your networks.

Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Instagram

Who are we?

Community Law & Mediation is an independent community law centre and charity, working since 1975 with communities impacted by social exclusion, disadvantage and inequality, through the provision of free legal, mediation and education services.

In 2021, we opened the Centre for Environmental Justice, which works to ensure climate change and other environmental harms do not disproportionately affect those who have contributed least to the problem, and that the State’s response to environmental challenges addresses inequality and protects the rights of present and future generations.

CLM Housing Law / Prevention of Homelessness Training Course

This training course will examine the law relating to homelessness in Ireland – what is the State’s obligations to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

This course will look at social housing supports, the application process, and the scheme of allocations. It will also explain tenancy rights.

The main outcomes will be

  • The prevention of homelessness for individuals and families who are at risk of losing their home.
  • Empowerment of individuals to advocate on their own behalf in respect of their housing and tenancy rights.
  • Up-skill other advocacy services and organisations in housing and tenancy rights.

Location
This course is a one-day course split over two half days on Zoom.

Cost

€200

Dates

  • Monday 19th February from 10am to 1pm
  • Tuesday 20th February from 10am to 1pm

For an application form click here or fill in the booking form below.

For more information please email education. 

Your Details

* Mandatory fields


“Children have a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment”

United Nations’ General Comment on child rights, the environment and climate change must be a catalyst for urgent action by Government to reduce emissions and protect children’s rights.

The United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child today officially launched its General Comment on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change. According to the Committee, the General Comment came about as a result of the efforts of children to draw attention to environmental crises.

Community Law & Mediation (CLM), a community law centre which specialises in environmental justice and children’s law services, is calling on the Government to heed the findings of the report, which states in unequivocal terms that “the triple planetary crisis, comprising the climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution, is an urgent and systemic threat to children’s rights globally”, including the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The report also makes it clear that the effects of climate change will not be felt equally; vulnerable children are most at risk of feeling the impacts of the climate crisis first and worst, including within developed countries such as Ireland.

The General Comment has been published at a critical juncture for climate action globally and in Ireland. Despite declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019, Ireland’s emissions have remained persistently high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently warned that Ireland is projected to fall “well-short of climate targets” and called for the urgent implementation of “policies that deliver emission reductions across all sectors in the short term.”[1] The Climate Change Advisory Council further warned that “The Government needs to set out credible and detailed implementation plans to enable us to achieve our ambitious targets.”[2]

CLM has consistently warned that the longer transformative climate action is delayed, the more difficult the transition will be, particularly for children and future generations. It is calling on the Irish Government to take climate action in accordance with its legal obligations to avoid unduly burdening young and future generations with drastic emissions reductions in the future.

This view is shared by the German Federal Constitutional Court, which found in Neubauer et al v Germany[3] that “one generation must not be allowed to consume large portions of the CO2 budget while bearing a relatively minor share of the reduction effort, if this would involve leaving subsequent generations with a drastic reduction burden and expose their lives to serious losses of freedom.”[4] In a groundbreaking legal decision last month (August), a Montana court found in favour of 16 young plaintiffs that the state’s failure to consider climate change when approving fossil fuel projects was unconstitutional.

Commenting on the publication of the General Comment, Clodagh Daly, Manager of CLM’s Centre for Environmental Justice said:

“Climate change is an inter-generational injustice without precedent. It is no surprise that children have been leading the way in the fight for climate justice. Children are disproportionately impacted by climate change, and it is not about protecting a planet they will inherit – it is about protecting their rights today. That is why Community Law & Mediation provides free legal advice on children’s rights and environmental justice. We welcome the UN General Comment and call on the Government to deliver deep, rapid and sustained reductions in emissions to vindicate the rights of children in Ireland and around the world.”

Ruth Barry, children’s law solicitor at CLM said:

“The climate crisis is ultimately a children’s rights crisis. As the UN General Comment highlights, environmental protection applies to all children’s rights as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to be heard, the right to education, the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, the right to access to information and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. These rights must be protected amidst an escalating climate and biodiversity crisis. Environmental decisions generally concern children, and the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in the adoption and implementation of environmental policies.”

Community Law & Mediation provides free legal advice on children’s rights and environmental and climate justice and calls on the Irish Government to act urgently on the UN’s recommendations to protect children’s rights.

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Community Law & Mediation and the Centre for Environmental Justice

Community Law & Mediation is an independent community law centre and charity, working since 1975 with communities impacted by social exclusion, disadvantage and inequality, through the provision of free legal advice, advocacy, mediation and education services.

In 2021, CLM established the Centre for Environmental Justice which works to ensure low income and marginalised communities are not disproportionately impacted by climate change or other environmental harms, and that environmental measures and climate action protect and build equality and social justice. CLM also provides a specialist children’s law service to support young people and families with legal issues.

Appointments for our free legal advice clinics on environmental and/or children’s rights can be booked by contacting 01 847 7804 or filling in the clinic form here.

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – General comment No. 26 (2023) on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change

In this general comment, officially launched on 18th September 2023, the Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasises the urgent need to address the adverse effects of environmental degradation, with a special focus on climate change, on the enjoyment of children’s rights, and clarifies the obligations of States to address environmental harm and climate change. The Committee also explains how children’s rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to environmental protection and confirms that children have a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

According to the Committee, the efforts of children to draw attention to environmental crises created the motivation and were the momentum behind this general comment. The Committee’s children’s advisory team supported a consultation process with children from 121 countries, through online surveys, focus groups and in-person national and regional consultations. The Committee also received inputs from States, experts and other stakeholders through two rounds of consultations on the concept note and first draft of the general comment.

Climate Action Case – Community Law & Mediation and Friends of the Irish Environment

Community Law & Mediation is representing Friends of the Irish Environment, an Irish environmental non-governmental organisation (eNGO), in its High Court legal challenge of the Irish Government’s Climate Action Plan 2023 (CAP23) and its corresponding Annex of Actions.

 

The legal challenge has been launched by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) against the Irish Government over its failure to show with a sufficient level of specificity that the Climate Action Plan 2023 (CAP 23) and its Annex of Actions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with Ireland’s legally binding carbon budget – a breach of the Government’s legal duties under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (as amended).

Despite declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019, Ireland remains the second worst emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and the latest stark projections by the Environmental Protection Agency and analysis by An Taisce show that Ireland will fall significantly short of its legally binding 2030 climate targets.

This case is being taken because Ireland has a legal and ethical duty to adhere to its obligations on climate change, to protect children, citizens and communities from the most dangerous impacts of the climate crisis and to prevent the need for more abrupt and forceful action later.

[1] Environmental Proteciton Agency. 2023. ‘Ireland projected to fall well short of climate targets, says EPA.’ l (epa.ie)

[2] Climate Change Advisory Council. 2023. ‘Statement by the Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council following the publication of Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2022 to 2040’ l (climatecouncil.ie)

[3] Learn more about the youth led Neubauer v Germany watershed victory here.

[4] https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/EN/2021/03/rs20210324_1bvr265618en.html;jsessionid=2D79A2FF1A584C978D3717BA2FA42736.2_cid377

Climate Conversations 2023: Response Template

The Climate Conversations Consultation is a key forum through which people can have their say on climate action, how it affects them, and policies they would like to see implemented. It is designed to inform the Climate Action Plan 2024.

Why does it matter?

Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, and its Annex of Actions, is published annually. Its purpose is to set out a roadmap for meeting Ireland’s 2021-2025 legally binding carbon budget, that is, the total amount of emissions that may be emitted in the State during a five-year period.

In 2019, Ireland was the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. Despite this, Ireland remains the third worst emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. The latest projections by the Environmental Protection Agency and An Taisce show that Ireland will fall significantly short of its 2030 legally binding emissions reduction targets.

How to have your say:

The link to the survey is available here.

It takes approximately 20 minutes in total to complete.

The deadline is Friday September 8th at 5.30pm.

Community Law and Mediation’s Centre for Environmental Justice has prepared an “Environmental Justice” template response, which you can navigate below – please adapt it and make it your own, but use as much of it as you need.

• This section includes 5 multi-choice questions about your views on climate change.
• There is a comment box at the end where you can be honest about your feelings on the climate crisis. CLM provided the following response:

Following the hottest June and wettest July on record for Ireland, it is deeply troubling that Ireland’s emissions remain among the highest per capita in the EU. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently warned that the Climate Action Plan 2023 – if fully implemented – will exceed the first two legally-binding carbon budgets (2021-2025; 2026-2030) by 22%, “a significant margin.” The EPA has called for the urgent implementation of “policies that deliver emission reductions across all sectors in the short term” in order to adhere to the carbon budget program. In response to the EPA’s assessment, the Climate Change Advisory Council further warned that “The Government needs to set out credible and detailed implementation plans to enable us to achieve our ambitious targets.”

The Council previously highlighted in their 2021 and 2022 Annual Reports that considerable gaps remain between proposed climate action measures and implementation. CAP24 must therefore deliver “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented” reductions in emissions in order to limit the human rights impacts of climate change and to comply with Ireland’s legal duty to take climate action consistent with a 1.5°C threshold. The longer climate action is delayed, the more difficult it will be. As the impacts of climate change worsen, and as the window to remain within 1.5°C narrows, the policy response may become abrupt, forceful, and disorderly. Communities should instead be empowered and supported through an inclusive and fair transition.

• The first nine questions refer to the importance of different actors in delivering climate action, from individuals to the European Union.
• The following 6 questions refer to how well you think the Irish government is delivering on climate action.
• The final 3 questions ask about your engagement in climate action.
• A comment box at the end invites responses to: “Do you have any other comments you would like to add about climate action levels and responsibilities?” CLM provided the following response:

We do not consider the Irish government’s action on climate change to date to represent positive climate leadership. In relation to the Climate Action Plan (CAP) specifically, lessons must be taken from the failures of Climate Action Plan 2023 and its corresponding Annex of Actions. For example, neither the CAP23 nor its corresponding Annex of Actions quantified the reductions in emissions anticipated from the implementation of either specific or collective measures. While the CAP23 was published in December 2022, the Annex was only published in March 2023, it was not until June 2023 (i.e. more than 6 months after the publication of the CAP23) that the Environmental Protection Agency found that CAP23 was inconsistent with emission reduction requirements per Carbon Budgets 1 and 2.

Public assessment of various policies and measures included in CAP23 and its Annex is, as a result, very challenging. Delayed publication of the Annex hinders the Government’s capacity to deliver timely and full implementation of the Climate Action Plan. According to the Climate Action Plan 2023 Q1 Progress Report (published on May 4th 2023), a quarter of the Climate Action Plan 2023 Q1 measures have been delayed (25%). No proposals are made within the progress report to demonstrate how implementation shortfalls will be compensated by additional policies or measures to ensure compliance with Carbon Budget 1. The Government should identify, quantify, and measure policies (eg phase out the production and importation of fossil fuels) to ensure CAP24 and its Annex of Actions are fully consistent with Carbon Budgets 1 and 2, and include measures to ensure their successful and timely implementation.

•This section asks questions that relate to your understanding of climate change and where you source information about climate change.

•14 questions related to your understanding of climate change are asked in this section

One of the questions refers to the likelihood that climate change will cause a “global migration crisis.” This is irresponsible framing. Migration is a resilient and adaptive response to the climate crisis – it is not a crisis within itself, nor does it pose a threat to Ireland’s national security. Research has shown that framing climate migration as a “crisis” is likely to elicit backlash (see: Gillis, A., Geiger, N., Raimi, K. et al. Climate change–induced immigration to the United States has mixed influences on public support for climate change and migrants. Climatic Change 176, 48 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-023-03519-y)

Another of the questions refers to the importance of balancing emissions “sources” and “sinks”. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change has described the extensive deployment of negative emissions technologies as ‘subject to multiple feasibility and sustainability constraints’. There is a danger that GHG removals will be seen as a substitute (rather than in addition) to immediate and significant emission reductions. The problem with an overreliance on GHG removals include the risk that carbon could leak back into the atmosphere; the risk of heightened competition for land; and the fact that most technologies are still only prospective and do not yet exist at scale. It is for this reason that scholars call for separate emissions reductions and GHG removals targets and for the urgent prioritisation of ‘much more ambitious, near term [emissions] reductions’.

•This section asks 29 questions about a range of actions that could be taken across areas like transport, food, home, and day-to-day activities.
•This section includes two comment boxes; the first invites you to include “any other actions that you think might have a big impact on reducing carbon emissions.” CLM orovided the following response:

Many of the sustainable options listed here (such as retrofitting, installation of a heat pump or solar panels) are not available or affordable to many people. These barriers need to be addressed. Much greater investment from the government is needed, ideally to cover the full cost of energy efficiency measures such as retrofit, to ensure that energy efficiency measures are available to all households, regardless of income or home ownership status. This is particularly important in the context of Ireland’s energy poverty crisis, where up to 40% of households are estimated to have experienced energy poverty last winter. CAP24 should seek to reduce energy poverty and energy emissions in tandem.

•The second (and final) comment box in section 4 invites you to include “any barriers not mentioned so far that you think prevent people of making more impactful actions.”

•CLM submitted the following response:

It is unclear why certain questions are included within this consultation, for instance, the questions related to pets. By way of comparison, the CAP23 provides no clarity as to how agricultural emissions will be reduced, particularly when a model of expansion seems set to continue for the agri-food sector. CAP23 furthermore does not clarify when the production and importation of fossil fuels will be entirely phased out. Fossil fuels are the primary contributor to climate change and account for 57% of Ireland’s overall emissions profile (SEAI). The CAP24 must address the primary causes of climate change, and it would be more empowering if this consultation engaged the public on questions of how the government can deliver reductions in emissions across all sectors of the economy, consistent with carbon budget 1, in a manner that is fair and brings the public along.

Many of the low-carbon alternatives suggested in this questionnaire (such as retrofitting, electric vehicles, and heat pumps) are simply not affordable or accessible to people living in Ireland, recently recognised as the most expensive country in the EU. Those who have contributed least to the climate crisis – low-income, one-parent families, and members of the Traveller community, for example – have no means of choosing lower carbon alternatives, and do not necessarily have the bandwidth to worry about such concerns (the “end of the world” v “the end of the month.”) Had this consultation asked about the proportion of one’s income allocated to rent and energy bills, and whether one has savings, for example – a more comprehensive response as to why one may not be positioned to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviours would be more clear. The evident onus placed on individual action through this consultation is disempowering and inconsistent with a human-rights approach to climate action.

•The final section asks some questions about you- such as your age, living arrangements, and employment status (you can choose to opt out of those questions if preferred).

That’s it! You’ve completed Climate Conversations 2023.

A Walk in their Shoes: Challenges for State Examination Students with Disabilities

Image of child writing school work

Mike (not his real name) is a sixth year student, like many, preparing for his Leaving Certificate (LC) exam. Along with the typical exam nerves, Mike is facing an additional barrier making it nearly impossible for him to feel confident about his upcoming exams. Mike is legally blind, and after applying to use the digital format of the LC exam papers, his request was denied by the State Examination Commission (SEC). So what does this mean for Mike who still must sit his LC exam?

With a situation like this, Mike needs a legal remedy. There are constitutional rights and equality laws which protect Mike from being discriminated against in the education system. If Mike had to sit the LC exam in the traditional format, the result of this would be hugely challenging. For instance, for Mike to take part in his maths exam, the exam paper would have to be enlarged on the day of the exam to such an extent that it would run to approximately 52 A3 pages.

Can the education system discriminate against students with disabilities when sitting exams?

By law, schools cannot discriminate against students during exam periods. To discriminate against a student on the ‘disability ground’ means there is less favourable treatment of a student due to their disability. In this case, disability is broadly defined to cover physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive, emotional and/ or medical conditions.

Discrimination in education, (as set out in the Equal Status Acts) can happen in multiple ways. In the case of Mike, he has been discriminated against by not being given reasonable accommodation to sit his LC exam from the SEC. However, more broadly, under the Equal Status Acts, a school has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities, and only if the school can demonstrate that it would be impossible or extremely difficult to teach other students and/or it would come at a considerable cost, can they refuse to make accommodations.

In Mike’s case, Community Law & Mediation’s children’s law solicitor assisted him and his parents in multiple ways. Firstly, our solicitor helped the family to make a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, alongside guiding them on communication with the SEC and Department of Education. Secondly, the solicitor instructed a barrister on their behalf and issued a letter to the SEC explaining the need for Mike to have the digital format LC exam papers, warning that plenary proceedings would be taken if the SEC failed to allow this. Through this assistance, the SEC listened to the concerns of Mike.

Yes, a solicitor is a trained legal professional who has a wide knowledge of the law. A solicitor will also understand and uphold the laws as set out in the Equal Status Acts, Employment Equality Acts and the Disability Act 2005. These laws all apply to issues of disability discrimination within the education system.

In Mike’s case, there was a successful outcome after the help of our solicitor. In October 2022, the SEC published the scheme of Reasonable Accommodations at Certificate Examinations for 2023. The scheme introduced examinations papers in PDF format for visually impaired LC students for the first time. Eligible students must be under the remit of the Visiting Teachers Service. The SEC will evaluate this pilot scheme following the 2023 examinations.

For Mike, this means he could sit his exams in a way that was accessible to him. For his parents, they found the assistance navigating the law and advocating on behalf of their family made the difference in vindicating their child’s rights.  

Worried about discrimination and want to talk to someone?

If you feel that you are facing challenges in education, such as, bullying or discrimination, we can offer you free legal advice on your individual situation. To contact us for free and confidential legal advice, you can:

Mediation FAQ: How to solve a dispute

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process where parties in a dispute mutually agree to meet with a professional, impartial mediator. The mediator assists parties in finding ways to resolve a dispute. This helps them to work together towards an agreed solution.

What is the role of the mediator?

The main role of a mediator is to be impartial, treat all parties fairly and manage the mediation process. They facilitate parties to communicate effectively and consider the issues with a view of parties mutually agreeing an outcome. The Mediation Act 2017 governs all of our mediators. Additionally, the Mediators Institute of Irelands (MII) Code of Ethics and Practice binds our mediators.

Why choose mediation?

There is growth in the use of mediation services to resolve disputes, rather than going to court or arbitration. In court or arbitration, a third party decides the outcome based upon a presentation of the facts and law.

Benefits include:

  • Control: You have control over how you wish to resolve your dispute. A third party does not make any decisions.
  • Flexibility: You have more flexibility compared to court, which operates under strict rules.
  • Voluntary Process: It is a voluntary process. At any stage you, or indeed the mediator, can decide the session(s) are not productive and stop the process.
  • Confidential: Parties, including the mediator, agree not to disclose information arising in the session(s). Limits to confidentiality arise when required by law under section 10(2) of the Mediation Act 2017.
  • Speed: It can take a matter of hours or days to resolve a dispute, as opposed to months or even years.
  • Relationship Building: It helps parties to better understand each other. You can find avenues for resolution that you are both happy with.
  • Options:  If it fails, you can still explore other avenues to resolve your dispute such as the court process.
  • Cost: It is free.

What should I expect from a session?

You will need to be willing to work to resolve issues and to work through your difficulties. This means you should expect to discuss your position and try to listen to the other party too. Each party has an opportunity to voice concerns and to speak without interruption.

CLM uses a model of co-mediation. This involved two mediators in the mediation process. Mediation begins with the mediators meeting both parties separately. The mediators explain what mediation is, allowing each party time to talk about their issue(s) that need to be addressed. They also discuss what they would like to achieve through mediation. Once both parties agree to proceed, a further meeting is arranged and the process begins. At this point, parties will sign an agreement to mediate, which explains the ground rules for parties involved. Additionally, it outlines how and when the mediation process will be conducted.

Does the mediator decide for us?

The mediator does not decide for you. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process where the mediator acts impartially to help the parties come to a resolution.  The mediator’s role is not to determine facts, make a judgement of law or otherwise impose their solution. Mediators work in a “non-directive” manner, facilitating better communication and understanding between the parties. They also help them explore possible solutions to their dispute. Additionally, they assist the parties in drawing-up a written agreement that states the terms and conditions upon which they have decided to resolve their dispute.

How long will the process take?

Often, mediation can be completed in a single or even two sessions. However, it all depends on the type of dispute, its complexity and the preparedness of the parties to seek to resolve their differences in a non-adversarial setting. Some disputes are mediated in a few hours, while others, like family disputes, often require several, sometimes shorter sessions spread out over a number of weeks. The most one can expect would be six sessions with the mediator to thoroughly resolve all issues.

What if we can’t agree?

Generally speaking, up to 80% of all cases submitted to mediation do settle. However, there are some that do not. If you fail to reach a conclusion, you still have the right to resort to court or arbitration if those avenues are available to you.

What is an interim mediation settlement?

Both parties prepare and agree to an interim mediation settlement when going through the mediation process. This interim mediation settlement is subject to change, and therefore, is not enforceable at this point.  Near the end of the mediation process, a final mediation settlement is drawn up.

What is a mediation settlement?

During the mediation process, the mediator works with the parties to help them develop a mediation settlement agreeable to them. There is significant emphasis on how parties will interact in the future if they have an ongoing relationship.

What happens after the settlement is drawn up?

After the settlement process, there are further steps in the mediation process. The mediator will ensure that the parties are aware of their rights to each obtain independent advice (including legal advice) prior to signing any mediation settlement.

What is the status of the settlement in law?

Only the parties to the mediation can decide if a mediation settlement has been reached between them and whether this is to be enforceable. Unless the parties agree that the mediation settlement has no legal force until it is included into a formal legal agreement or contract to be signed by the parties, it will act as a contract between parties, pursuant to Section 11 (2) of the 2017 Mediation Act 2017.

Once a mediation settlement is agreed either party can apply to the court to have the mediation settlement enforced. The court will do so unless there are any concerns that the mediation settlement does not comply with section 11(a)(b) of the Mediation Act 2017.

Is there any charge or cost?

CLM provides a free mediation service to the community. We offer all clients an opportunity to make a voluntary donation to the service when their mediation sessions. Each party in a mediation case is required to pay a ten euro refundable deposit unless there are exceptional circumstances for not doing so. This deposit is refunded to the party at the end of their case, unless they have cancelled their mediation session three times or has not given at least 24 hours’ notice to a single cancellation.

I am in a dispute with another party. How do I get in contact with your Mediation Service?

Contact our Mediation Service to find out further information. Our offices are in Northside Civic Centre, Bunratty Road, Coolock, Dublin 17. You can also call us on 01 8477804 or send an email to MediationAdmin@CommunityLawandMediation.ie

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