Co Donegal thatched cottages 'under threat'

A thatched cottage in Co Donegal
A thatched cottage in Co Donegal

THATCHED cottages in Co Donegal are under threat due to a shortage of raw materials and skilled thatchers.

The county has more than 200 thatched homes - one of the highest concentrations in the Republic.

But Donegal County Council’s heritage officer, Joseph Gallagher, has warned that owners are facing serious difficulties, including prohibitively high insurance costs.

Mr Gallagher said those who live in the cottages are "unheralded champions of our built heritage".

Since 2019, a thatch repair grant has been available to help owners in Donegal conserve and maintain their thatch.

But Mr Gallagher said along with a skills shortage, owners have difficulty in finding affordable house insurance.

"The lack of insurance companies in the Republic of Ireland willing to provide quotes for historic thatch and the inability to get affordable insurance in some instances means that new generations of possible owners cannot live under thatch because insurance is required in order to take out a mortgage," he told RTÉ.

"Insurance companies in Northern Ireland, Britain and many other European countries seem better informed about historic thatch structures and can provide appropriate and more affordable insurance cover. It’s not clear why the situation in the Republic of Ireland is more prohibitive."

Collette Beattie, conservation officer with Donegal County Council, said if thatched homes are left vacant they quickly go into decline.

She has encouraged people to apply for the grant to cover repairs to the eaves, the ridge, flashings around the chimney, holes, furrows, fixings, ropes, wire netting, the gable and the roof timbers or carpentry.