After four long months of lockdown, communities throughout Ireland are being boosted by the return of their men's sheds.
The Irish Men's Sheds Association (IMSA) has issued detailed guidelines on safe-as-possible reopening to Ireland's 450 men's sheds. With the support of the IMSA and their local communities, dozens of sheds have already reopened their doors.
“The word we've been drumming home is 'safety'”, says IMSA CEO Barry Sheridan. “We've been very clear that sheds shouldn't even consider reopening until they can satisfy a range of criteria around social distancing and other factors”.
“Sheds have moved heaven and earth to comply with the guidelines”, Sheridan added.
“They've worked wonders to try and get back up and running as safely as possible. They've been desperately missed, not just by their members, but by their communities”.
Sheds reopening since the end of June include Dundalk Men's Shed of Co. Louth, which has prepared meticulously for its safe return to action.
“The safety of our members is our main priority', said shed chairman Peter O'Neill.
“We've been working closely with the IMSA around the reopening and without their support, we couldn't have managed it”.
Shed treasurer Brian Byrne outlines the extent of the safeguards put in place by the shed: “We have installed new seat and floor coverings”, Brian reports; “hand sanitisers and new lighting have been installed, face shields will be provided for members, and numbers will be restricted until further notice. Kitchen facilities will be restricted for now”.
While the return of the men to their shed was a joyous occasion, shed chairman Peter O'Neill was keen to point out the members' profound sense of social responsibility. “Nobody wants to see a spike in Covid-19 that will force everything to be tightened up again”, he says. “The only way we can remain open is for everybody to follow the guidelines”.
As sheds from Mayo to Dublin and Antrim to Kerry prepare to reopen, IMSA CEO Barry Sheridan reiterates the theme of social responsibility.
“No shed should feel they have to reopen until they're good and ready and able to comply with the guidelines”, he insists.
“Likewise, no shedder should feel they have to return to the shed until they're comfortable in themselves, particularly if they're in one of the most vulnerable groups”.
For many members, the absence of the shed has left a yawning gap in their lives. Sheds have shown extraordinary resilience and inventiveness in keeping members connected during this period. While normality as we've known it may be some way off, for many sheds, the clouds are beginning to break at last.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.