Laois Traveller Action Group's Men's Shed with their crib for St Peter & Paul's Church in Portlaoise.
An impressive new nativity crib will have pride of place outside St Peter & Paul's Church in Portlaoise this Christmas.
The huge wooden crib is the result of skilled work by Laois Traveller Action Group's Men's Shed.
Brian Byrne is the group's community worker.
“The men did a smaller crib last year for the roof of the church entrance. We met with Fr Byrne and Declan Kelly the parish centre manager this year and they commissioned us to build a larger crib, big enough for their lifesize figures.
The crib took six weeks of craftsmanship.
“Since it started more Traveller men from around Laois have come to work on it. About 10 to 15 men have worked together really productively. it has brought a huge sense of unity and pride in showing their skills. They make miniature wagons here too but this is the biggest project,” he said.
“There is pride too for their families when they go by the church and see the crib. Religion is a big thing to Traveller people,” he said.
The men designed, made and painted the wooden crib.
Among them is Thomas McInerney from Mountmellick.
“It's been good fun to work on. Making something for the parish is a nice thing to do, we like giving something back to the community,” he said.
He enjoys being in the Men's Shed.
“We come in, have a chat and a cup of tea and get a break from the house. Brian has been a great help to us. There is no discrimination here, everyone is welcome,” he said.
It is placed outside the church entrance.
Monsignor John Byrne PP is delighted with the crib.
“It is a substantial crib and we thank very much the men who created it,” he said.
The LTAG Mens Shed members who come from all over Laois are also taking courses in swimming and boxercise, supported by Laois Partnership. Woodworking is a big part of their skills.
“We made a swing bench for the nursing home in Mountmellick and we are happy to do more for things like Tidy Towns,” said Thomas.
The Traveller Men's Shed meet every Monday and Wednesday morning from 10 to 12.30. Their workshop is based behind Portlaoise Parish parochial house.