As part of the recent training course for participants on the Leitrim Mediation Training project, a cross-border visit has taken place with one of the most established and best known mediation projects in Ireland – Mediation Northern Ireland (MNI). This project has been funded by the PEACE III Programme through the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by Leitrim County Council on behalf of County Leitrim Peace III Partnership.
Located in the heart of Belfast, MNI is a mediation development organisation which works to support reconciliation and community cohesion and uses mediative practice to build capacity for change among individuals and communities and promote sustainable peace building. The trip commenced with an extremely informative presentation of Belfast as the ‘divided city’ which gave an overview of how the social and demographic profile of the people has evolved in the wake of the peace process. The almost three-fold increase in the number of Peace Walls in recent years has is a clear illustration of how much of the resolution consists of separate but peaceful co-existence rather than any significant level of integration and relationship building between the two sides.
We took a tour then of some of the Peace Walls and mural works of art and got some insight into the role of symbolism and insignia as markers of identity and the significance of claiming and maintaining this identity for the two communities. However, the work of building peace is ongoing and much of Mediation Northern Ireland’s focus is on using mediative practices to address the conflict at cultural and structural levels in Northern Ireland rather than simply mediating individual disputes.
This field trip had been organized as a final event over the course of the training run by Consensus Mediation. The course which ran from November 2011 and has just been completed. It has aimed to give participants the required level of generic skills, knowledge and attitudes to enable them to successfully qualify at Certified level with the Mediator’s Institute of Ireland.
Key content included knowledge of mediation theory, principles, practice, styles and methods, exploring participants own styles and approaches to dealing with conflict, acquiring a theoretical understanding of conflict, managing conflict and principles of conflict resolution, an awareness of the external context of mediation as well of course, as developing effective skills, knowledge and attitudes in mediation to meet the certified assessment requirements. Models of good practice of peace building and mediation in this area were also explored.
Participants had an opportunity to practice skills in simulated role plays and the course assessment consisted of a videoed role play of each individual mediating a case for an hour. Following successful completion, trainees are now eligible to apply for a Certificate to Practice as a mediator issued by the MII, which also has a comprehensive Code of Ethics that Mediators are required to follow.
It is now hoped that the group of trained Mediators in Leitrim can work towards implementing the use of mediation to build the capacity of communities in Co Leitrim to improve and develop more positive relationships and empower people to deal with conflict more creatively.