Eamonn O’Connor is Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Irish Men’s Shed Association. He is vice-chairman of Rostrevor Men’s Shed, a former Shed Support Volunteer and a community activist.
We started 2020 celebrating the announcement of the Global Gathering of Men’s Sheds due to take place in August 2020 in Galway. Our Shed Showcases began in Wicklow and Donegal and Sheds from Dublin, Kildare, Louth and Limerick were honoured for their participation in the IMSA’s Sheds for Life health promotion programme.
Little did we realise how quickly normal life would disappear. However, when restrictions kicked in on Friday March 13, men’s sheds moved online to continue to connect, finding new and innovative ways to interact. I was a little busy myself that day, as my daughter got married.
The men of Naas Community Men’s Shed set up a ‘musical WhatsApp’ group’ and Waterford Estuary Men’s Shed started a ‘virtual art group’. An Scioból Men’s Shed in Donegal went a step further and began hosting Facebook Live music sessions, explaining that it was essential to help people deal with isolation in an already underpopulated region.
In May we published ‘The impact of Covid-19 on Irish Men’s Sheds Members and their sheds’ by Aisling McGrath which made for sobering reading on the mental and physical toll of COVID on our members. We also launched the Save Our Sheds (SOS) campaign to assist sheds now unable to fundraise with over €45,000 donated.
It is testament to the resourcefulness of our shedders, their ingenuity and commitment to each other that will ensure that the sheds will reopen stronger and more resilient than before.
In October we began our ‘Shedcast’ series of online events featuring diverse personalities such as Professor of Biochemistry in Trinity College Dublin Luke O’Neill, celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin and singer/songwriter John Spillane. We set up regional What’s App groups and regular regional Zoom meetings to keep shedders in touch. In November we received a letter from An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, acknowledging sheds as ‘a shining example of the continued resilience that will see us through [the Covid pandemic] together’.
As 2020 draws to a close, sheds in the South are emerging from onerous Level 5 restrictions while sheds in Northern Ireland face another lockdown. It is testament to the resourcefulness of our shedders, their ingenuity and commitment to each other that will ensure that the sheds will reopen stronger and more resilient than before. However, it is heartening to see that the camaraderie accumulated over the years in every shed remains strong and we realise that it is the men and not the shed that makes us great.
 Niamh McGarry Communications Officer
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