Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ceisteanna (37)

Tony McLoughlin


37. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to allocate funding in 2019 to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22729/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (12 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Rural)

This question is about the Minister's plans to allocate funding this year to the Irish Men's Sheds Association. We see the amount of work being done in men's sheds throughout the country and the number of people who are actively involved in them. I see it in my constituency and I am sure other Members of the Oireachtas see it in their constituencies. I hope the Minister has some good news for me.

The emergence of men's sheds in recent years has been fantastic for communities across Ireland.  In towns, villages and cities which I visit as Minister, I am always amazed by the great work that local men's sheds do.  They provide a safe and comfortable environment where men of all ages can share skills, work on meaningful projects and connect with their communities.

The Government is committed to supporting these groups.  In 2018, a range of supports were available for men's sheds, many of which will be available again in 2019.

Last year, I provided a special men's shed fund under the community enhancement programme.  This made €500,000 of ring-fenced funding available to men's sheds groups to carry out minor capital works or to purchase equipment.  Men's sheds groups were also eligible to apply for funding under the main community enhancement programme, under which €12.5 million of funding was made available in 2018.

This year, I have announced an initial allocation of €4.5 million for the community enhancement programme and the men's sheds continue to be eligible to apply for funding under this programme.

My Department also has responsibility for SICAP, which provided 40 grants to men's sheds groups in 2018.  This support will continue to be available throughout the current SICAP, which runs until 2022.

Additionally, in 2018, under the LEADER 2014-20 programme, ten projects which are for use by groups, including men's sheds, were approved funding to the value of €670,685.  This funding stream will continue in 2019.

I thank the Minister for that information. Men's sheds are beneficial for the people who operate in them. The people who run them in my constituency tell me they have benefitted from them both mentally and physically. The funding is certainly needed. The Minister referred to equipment. It is important for these outlets to provide equipment for these gentlemen to operate. The Minister spoke about €4.5 million for the community enhancement programme. Is that for the current year or is it over the 2018 to 2020 period? It is vital that we encourage men's sheds. We have seen the number of them in certain areas and the enthusiasm of those who gather in them. They work not only for themselves in the men's sheds but also for their communities. Will the Minister clarify the funding for the current year?

The Irish Men's Sheds Association is a fantastic organisation and I compliment Deputy McLoughlin on putting this question. This has been one of the great success stories in Ireland, and not only in Ireland. The men's sheds movement is being brought across Europe to show what it can do. I see Deputy Connolly is present and I hope she will not now ask me about the women's sheds. If they want to join the national organisation, I will consider them for funding as well.

Answer the question.

There is a woman in charge of the men's shed in Galway.

The Minister should deal with Deputy McLoughlin's question.

My apologies, I will. Deputy McLoughlin is correct that extra funding was made available last year. With regard to additional funding this year, it is something I will consider later in the year when I see how my expenditure is going. I fully support the men's sheds. The organisation does a tremendous job for the Tidy Towns competition, communities and sporting organisations. Primarily, however, it gives men an outlet and an opportunity to meet and talk to each other. That is good for their well-being. I am delighted with the great success of this scheme.

I agree with the Minister on what it has done for so many people. In talking about men's sheds, we could incorporate females into the sheds as well.

I know many people who retired some years ago who are now involved with men's sheds. They are giving back to the community in terms of the expertise they have. They are also training other men in the men's sheds, which is important. The Minister is quite right. It is vital that funding can be made available for the men's sheds in the future. It is money well spent, whether it comes through the LEADER programme, the community enhancement programme or otherwise. Equipment and materials are costly and it is important that we ensure the funding is made available for these people to continue the wonderful work they are doing.

I endorse everything that has been said. During the election campaign, the Minister and I were in Kiltimagh and Ballina with men's sheds. The local sheds are doing phenomenal work but the national organisation is struggling with success.

The national organisation is an incredibly hard working team which is trying to co-ordinate all this activity. Some time ago, when Deputy Ó Cuív was Minister, there was a programme to support national organisations growing at the rate at which the men's sheds is growing. There are huge local supports for sheds but without national co-ordination, they will certainly not grow and any plans to move them around the world will not proceed either. I ask the Minister to engage with the national organisation to see if a funding stream could be found to support development workers and give them some back-up that would support the work that is being done on the ground.

There are 400 men's sheds around the country and the Deputy is correct to say that it has been a fabulous organisation, which has taken off and is working. Instead of dying away after starting off, it has got stronger and stronger. I have had a number of meetings with men's sheds and my Department is looking at the applications from the national organisation. Many applications have been received and I did not realise there were so many organisations. The Minister of State, Deputy Canney, and I are going through them at the moment but it will not be possible to accommodate everybody with the amount of money we have. Nevertheless, we will make decisions on the applications in the next few weeks.