Belfast Telegraph

Lawyers take mediation road to resolve differences as new centre opens at The Boat

By Margaret Canning

Belfast businessman Gareth Graham and vulture fund Cerberus used mediation to resolve their differences earlier this year.

The agreement involved Cerberus giving up control of Mr Graham's businesses - and in return, Mr Graham took out a newspaper advertisement apologising to Cerberus for any damage to its reputation he caused during litigation against it.

Now the Bar of Northern Ireland is hoping parties will turn to mediation to resolve their legal disputes in growing numbers as it opens a new mediation centre in Belfast city centre.

The barristers' professional body has taken up space for its mediation centre in The Boat office building in Queen's Square.

And it hopes that the venue's proximity to George Best Belfast City Airport and Central Station could aid its accessibility for international businesses.

The centre will be housed in a 4,000 sq ft space looking over the River Lagan.

The Bar said demand was growing for a space designed for mediation - a method increasingly suggested by judges to avoid costly legal proceedings.

David Mulholland, chief executive of The Bar of Northern Ireland, said: "The Boat is a wonderful space, with the prestige and location expected of a top class mediation centre.

"Successful mediation allows parties to mutually arrive at a blend of legal and non-legal solutions suited to their needs and we will be offering a suite of services."

David Wright, director at CBRE, said The Boat was one of few prime Grade A office spaces currently available in the city, adding it was "extremely well positioned to cater for the unique requirements of this new mediation centre".

Mr Graham used a newspaper advertisement to state his regret over harm caused to Cerberus as a result of legal actions he launched against it following Cerberus' deal to buy Nama assets in Northern Ireland.

He had previously told a Stormont committee investigating the Project Eagle deal that he recorded business phone calls which allegedly showed an "ingrained culture of inappropriate and possibly illegal conduct" across political, banking, legal and accountancy sectors.

Cerberus had put some of Mr Graham's companies into administration, prompting him to start legal proceedings against the fund. The parties later started a mediation process, leading to a settlement in March this year.

Belfast Telegraph