Project aims to tap into unused skills.

New city voluntary group highlight the relationship between man and his shed.
BY BERNIE NÍ FHLATHARTA

It’s hard to separate a man and his shed but a new movement in Galway is embracing that special relationship!

Cumann na bhFear is a new voluntary group that is reaching out to retired and unemployed men who hate being idle and might have skills to share. But far from it being a social networking group, it promises to be an active organisation with ambitions to possibly become a tourist attraction!

It is based on an initiative that is gaining popularity worldwide and recently in Ireland, particularly in southern counties.

They are called Shed Projects in general but are all individually different depending on the requirements of the groups of men involved.

Michael Tiernan from Ballindooley is one of the men behind the Galway project, which has made a number of grant applications through Galway City Council’s Partnership office.

Michael Tiernan and Jack O'Connor of Cumann na bhFear, the new voluntary group behind the Shed Project. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Mr Tiernan gives high praise to the City Council and their assistance to date in steering them in the right direction for grants, on the basis that they will be providing a social service.

“It’s a very popular idea in Australia and a few of us here have been talking about it for a while. Basically, it is bringing men together who are maybe unemployed or retired and who have skills that they can share or develop further. And through doing this, men would get opportunities to talk or simply meet up for a cup of tea.

“We have already drawn up our constitution and have applied for voluntary status as a group and received advice on where we can apply for grants. We are currently looking for a suitable venue, preferably central,” Michael explains.

So obviously, this is not a casual meeting of minds in someone’s back yard shed but a regularised group that would exchange knowledge and skills, as well as providing an outlet for men.

Michael even has a particular project in mind that could be tackled by the Galway group and that might even, if centrally located, could attract tourists next summer. It would involve a renovation project, one that the group could get their teeth into.

Other Shed Projects around the world specialise in boats or cars or other passions, but Michael sees the Galway one as open ended until it is meeting regularly and the group takes a decision on which project, if any, to tackle.

“For example, nobody in Galway seems to be able to fix a handle on a spade anymore. Everyone just seems to buy a new one but maybe someone in our group would have that skill.

“One thing for sure, is we will be the first such group to be set up in Galway, and hopefully others will follow in other parts of the county or even city, depending on our success.

There are so many men who are retired but still active who could be useful and so many unemployed men who would like to be active. We hope this group will fulfil those needs,” he added. As soon as the grant comes through and a venue is decided, Cumann na bhFear will officially be open for business, though not in the commercial sense.

Published: Friday 19th November in the Galway City Tribune by BERNIE NÍ FHLATHARTA