There are fears that the traditional picturesque Irish thatched cottage is under threat in Inishowen with more than a quarter of thatched roofs being replaced with slate in the last 15 years.
An audit of known thatched buildings on the Republic’s National Inventory of Architectural Heritage has listed more than 300 thatched buildings across Co Donegal. However, there was serious concern about the declining number of thatched homes in Inishowen, according to Donegal county heritage officer Joseph Gallagher.
The small, white-washed thatched cottage has always been a symbol of Ireland throughout the world.
Mr Gallagher said: “Preliminary results show that 27% of the historical thatch properties in the Inishowen municipal district have been lost in the past 15 years and a further 10% of them are in a poor or very poor conditions.
“A particular cause of concern is the replacement of historic thatch by some homeowners with slate when only repairs are required to save and conserve the historic thatch.”
Mr Gallagher was speaking at the launch of Donegal county council’s “thatch repair grant scheme” on Monday. Under the terms of the scheme, grant aid is available for small-scale thatch repairs from €500 up to €3,500.
Council conservation officer Collette Beattie told the launch that a “thatching school” was currently being completed by the Narin Portnoo Rosbeg community co-operative society ltd.
Ms Beattie said: “Thatching is a skilled trade and it takes approximately four years to train in this area so there is a real urgency in Donegal for the syllabus to be drawn up and for an accredited course developed in the immediate future.”
The council spokeswoman said the thatch repair scheme had created an increased demand for thatching material in Co Donegal. In Drumbarnett near Manorcunningham, rye straw was now being saved to support the thatching industry.
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