A SUGGESTION that the mediator being used by Ennis Town Council to help resolve a dispute between Traveller families in Ennis would brief the council on the process has been ruled out as “wholly inappropriate” by the town manager.
At this week’s meeting of Ennis Town Council, the first after the summer break, Councillor Paul O’Shea called for the council to arrange a private meeting between the mediator and councillors to discuss the ongoing Traveller feud and what progress, if any, has been made through mediation. He also expressed concern at the amount of money the council is spending on the services of the mediator, €1,000 a week.
“I find it extraordinary that we, as elected members, haven’t been afforded the opportunity to meet with the mediator to hear what progress, if any, has been made, and how long he envisages the process taking,” Councillor O’Shea remarked.
He also called on the council to consider the possibility of establishing a permanent part-time mediation centre in Ennis to provide a mediation service for sporting organisations and the wider community. The councillor further suggested the graduates of the University of Limerick’s Peace and Development Studies course could be hired as mediators.
“The centre could be used to resolve disputes between Travellers, tenants and landlords and disagreements within sporting organisations,” Councillor O’Shea said.
Ennis town clerk, Eddie Power, in response, said the use of mediation in disputes is an established conflict resolution methodology. The council has used such an approach in respect of its area of responsibility. The council is not in a position to establish a mediation centre, nor is the provision of such a service a function of this local authority,” he commented.
Concern and disappointment were expressed that the council’s use of a mediator in the long-running Traveller families dispute had been widely reported, while council had clearly been asked that confidentiality be applied to the information.
Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Tommy Brennan said that the council had agreed to keep the matter confidential, “to let the man do his job”.
“I didn’t break it to the news. It got out in the media and it shouldn’t have. I was asked by the media about it and I gave no information away. Other councillors should have done the same and others have told me they didn’t either,” he added.
Town manager, Ger Dollard, pointed out that a mediator had been employed on the basis of maintaining good estate management.
“The council were advised of the use of a mediation service on a confidential basis. I’m disappointed confidentiality has been breached. It begs the question whether future confidentiality can be maintained. I’m not inclined to discuss issues further given the breach of confidentiality,” he said.
He also completely ruled out Councillor O’Shea’s call for a meeting between the mediator and councillors.
“It’s wholly inappropriate. I have no intention to arrange a meeting for the mediator to brief councillors on issues which are confidential,” he said.
Councillor O’Shea said meetings had taken place between mediators in use by other councils, including in Cork and in Offaly.
He added, “I intended the meeting with the mediator would be in the absence of the media. I think it would be of help to the mediator to bounce off the councillors, who have years of experience in dealing with issues.”
Councillor Frankie Neylon expressed concern about the effect a meeting might have on the ability of the mediator to carry out his work. “If the mediator and the town manager is of a mind that a meeting could disrupt the process, or that it might get into the public domain further, I agree with that,” he said.
Councillor Johnny Flynn said the work the mediator is doing is very important. He suggested there could be a briefing on the mediation progress at the next Joint Policing Committee meeting.
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle said he would not be in favour of the mediator being asked to brief councillors.
“I think we’d end up looking for a mediator ourselves if he was brought in here. I’d be happy for the manager, the mayor and the town clerk to meet him,” he said.