A Men’s Shed group in Dundalk, Co Louth, is under threat after members were told they would have to move out of their current premises within weeks.
Saint John of God, which owns the property at Seatown, plans to refurbish the building to expand its day service. The race is now on for the Men’s Shed, which was one of the first of its kind in Ireland, to find a new home for its 60-plus members after 11 years.
“Most of our members are in their sunset years,” shedder Tom Conachy said. “They are in their 70s and 80s and this gives them a reason to get up in the morning. I worry about what might happen if it were to end.”
The group is part of a global movement that allows men to socialise and take part in a range of activities, including woodwork and crafts.
“These men come to the shed and they communicate with other shedders. They play pool or cards, read the paper or have a coffee. There is a fabulous workshop and we are also able to keep fit,” Mr Conachy said.
The members can buy dinner too and enjoy meals of bacon, cabbage and potatoes and apple tart and custard for €3.
“That may be the only decent meal they get that week and the first time they may have spoken to anyone because they are living on their own. It is about helping people and their mental health,” Mr Conachy said, adding that after Covid-19, the men no longer take for granted the opportunity to spend time together.
“What it’s doing for the shedders physically and mentally can’t be overstated. There are men in that shed every morning at 7.30am, men who would crack up if they had nothing to do.
“If our Men’s Shed has to close, will those men bother getting up early in the morning? Will they have something to get up for?”
Another member, Sean McArdle, said he would be devastated if it came to an end.
“I’m passionate about the Men’s Shed. I work in it every day creating and restoring furniture and making things. It’s a wonderful pastime,” he said.
“But we’re all tired and getting older, and if we lose this we’ll be home again looking at the four walls. There will be desperation, some of the men’s health will go downhill.”
A spokesperson for Saint John of God Community Services said: “Saint John of God Community Services North East Region can confirm it will open a new day service in Seatown, Dundalk, in 2023. This will allow us to meet the needs of our service users in a fit-for-purpose permanent location.
“While developing the plan for the site and seeking the funding needed, we were happy to lease the property in Seatown to Alone Ireland.
“In 2022 the Service secured the resources to put this property to use again to provide services for adults with an intellectual disability from the area. Ten months ago we gave notice that we intended commencing a refurbishment of the premises in early 2023. Alone then sought an extension of time on the lease and we were happy to facilitate that request.
“It is now intended for refurbishment works to commence as soon as possible once the service regains full possession of the building in March.”