BY JACKIE KEOGH
A WELL-INTENTIONED motion regarding Men’s Sheds left Sinn Féin Cllr Michael Murphy in the proverbial doghouse after he said he didn’t want to see them turned into ‘Hen’s Sheds.’
His motion calling on Cork County Council to consider leasing its vacant properties as a base for Men’s Shed groups took a turn when Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) suggested that all community groups – including women’s groups – should benefit if such a policy were to be adopted.
Several councillors spoke about how Men’s Sheds have proved invaluable in terms of promoting good mental health for men of all ages, but Cllr D’Alton said the idea that women are okay in that department, that they are more social, more engaged, didn’t necessarily stack up anymore.
She said women living in modern estates, who don’t know their neighbours, would attest to the fact that there is ‘no lonelier place to be.’
The councillor supported Cllr Murphy’s motion saying: ‘We should work on this concept, but not just for men’s sheds.’
Cllr June Murphy (Ind) suggested that idle Council buildings could also be used as emergency accommodation for women, and children, and men, who are living in abusive situations.
However, things went somewhat askew when Cllr Michael Murphy made reference to the fact the male suicide rate is increasing, and added the comment that he didn’t see the point in including women in the Men’s Shed project.
‘If we were to accept that,’ he said, ‘we might change it from Men’s Sheds to Hen’s Sheds.’
Someone from the back of the Council chamber suggested that Cllr Murphy hadn’t yet met the right woman, but his response to that was to say: ‘I’ve met too many of them.’
A further comment by Cllr Michael Murphy that ‘half the time men want out to try and get away from women’ and that that might be one reason the Men’s Shed movement had become so popular, added to the somewhat fractious mood at the Council meeting.
Cllr June Murphy (SF) said she didn’t appreciate comments like ‘Hen’s Sheds’ or ‘the notion that men are doing away with themselves because of women.’ But Cllr Michael Murphy said he was making two separate points and that they were not connected.
The mood only lightened when Des O’Grady (SF), in the same humorous fashion that a father might use with squabbling siblings, suggested that Cllr Michael Murphy ‘is probably in the doghouse right now.’
On a more serious note, Cllr Eoghan Jeffers (SF) said Men’s Sheds are a great place for men to ‘go and communicate,’ and Melissa Mullane, who is also a Sinn Féin councillor, identified a need for a new Men’s Shed base in Mallow and Kanturk.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said the Bantry group found themselves without a venue and had to relocate to Kealkil. And he spoke about the great work that the Castletownbere group did in transforming an old tractor.
Fine Gael Cllr Deirdre Forde also supported the motion saying: ‘This is about local people getting together to do it for themselves ... and it keeps men out of the pub.’