Shedding Inhibitions

Shedding inhibitions

Commercial premises, once home to prosperous businesses, lie dormant. Skilled men, once gainfully employed, find themselves at a loose end.

This is sadly the case in towns and villages across Ireland. But, thanks to the work of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association (I.M.S.A), these two negatives are combining to create positive results. John Evoy, CEO of I.M.S.A, spoke to NewsFour about how he came to set up the organisation.

Working in community development in 2005, Evoy noticed how family resource centres and community projects were very well used by women, but not men. He decided to find a way to get men involved in community activities and, after some research, discovered Men’s Sheds Australia, an organisation focused on giving retired and unemployed men a place to socialise and continue utilising their skills.

Evoy visited Australia in 2009 and was impressed by what he saw in the country’s sheds. “They were doing everything I wanted to do here,” he says.

At the same time Evoy was visiting Australia, Ireland’s first shed was set up in Tipperary. Soon after, separate organisations began developing sheds in Meath, Louth and Arklow. To provide a forum for these sheds to work together, Evoy launched the Irish Men’s Sheds Organisation in 2010, with an initial seven member sheds.

In 2011, the organisation won an Arthur Guinness Fund award and became a legal entity. The I.M.S.A was born. At the time of writing, there are 125 member sheds, with new sheds registering every week. “It really seems to have hit a chord with people,” Evoy says.
“Most guys develop friendships in work and that becomes their social network,” Evoy says. “If they retire or lose their job, they don’t just lose their income, they lose the bit of craic they enjoyed with their workmates.” Evoy feels this social aspect is key to the sheds’ popularity. “Usually there are tools of some sort involved for woodwork, metalwork, fixing old computers etc,” he says, “but the most important tool is the kettle.”

NewsFour asks Evoy if the sheds only cater to men with specific skills. “Absolutely not,” he replies. “We get men from all backgrounds and the range of skills and resources they bring is phenomenal.”

Often, shed members will use their skills for the betterment of the community. “There’s a lot of ‘care and repair’ involved,” Evoy says, “whether it’s making a bench for a local park or something as simple as fixing a tap for a local elderly person.”

Unlike Australia, where the vast majority of shed members are over 50, I.M.S.A members range from 19-90, with younger unemployed or under-employed men wishing to take part.

At present, there is no shed in the Dublin 4 locale. The nearest is in Sandyford or Dublin 1 but Evoy is eager to see this rectified. Should any of our readers wish to set up their own shed, he gives the following advice: “The first thing to do is to visit some of the existing sheds and familiarise yourself with what they’re all about.

If it seems right for you, contact the I.M.S.A through our website and we’ll support you as best we can”.
In terms of housing the shed, Evoy believes finding your own space is key. “The men need to know nobody else is going to be in there after them so they can leave sawdust or oil around,” he says. “Sharing a space with other groups leads to its own set of challenges.”

Evoy sees a benefit for landlords who may be currently paying rates on empty premises. “If a landlord allows their premises to be used for charitable purposes, they can be exempted from paying rates, so it’s a good incentive to get involved”.

If you wish to learn more about the I.M.S.A, you can find them online at

By Eric Hillis