A Finnish family whose 300-year-old Irish cottage was destroyed in a fire two weeks ago has revealed that they have no choice but to return to Finland.
Laura Lindholm said her family lost "pretty much everything" when their thatched cottage caught fire in Offaly, on February 6, after a local power outage. The family has been unable to find affordable rental accommodation in the local area, forcing them to return to Finland.
"I'm from Finland and my parents have offered us their house because of the housing crisis here so we'll return to Finland. Our two children need stability," Laura told RTÉ News.
"When we get stability, we will have a clearer mind to see what we can do here."
Her husband Daniel told RTÉ that they have hired a fire forensic investigator to find out what started the fire two weeks ago.
Laura explained that she was washing the dishes at about 8:15 p.m. on the day in question when she saw some orange light reflecting on the window.
"I ran outside and the roof was on fire," Laura told RTÉ.
A couple who lost everything in a devastating house fire at their 300-year-old thatch cottage in Co Offaly say they have been left with no option but to return to their native Finland | Read more: https://t.co/b2cyzIv0Cx pic.twitter.com/ZiMVNGU4df— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 18, 2023
"We called the fire brigade. We got the kids and dogs out and grabbed a few personal items. That's all we could do. We left with just the clothes we were wearing."
The couple said local fire services arrived quickly but added that the water pump had no pressure due to the power outage.
"For about 10 or 15 minutes we were staring, just watching as a piece of history fell to the ground. It was the damage limitation to see what we could save of the extension out the back," Daniel said.
The fire also destroyed Laura's flower and well-being business, which she operated from the house.
The couple criticized the Irish Government for its lack of support for the restoration of thatched cottages in Ireland, while they were also critical of the insurance situation.
They said they could only obtain partial insurance for their 300-year-old cottage, which did not include fire cover.
"Most insurance policies don't even cover fire so they're in that sense absolutely useless. It's very sad to see there's no support there," Laura said.
"What is the Government's stance on protecting the heritage? They're not acting as the guarantor for the insurers and the banks don't want to know you because you can't get insurance."
The couple added that they have not been approached by any local TDs or councilors since the fire and feel like they have been "left on their own".
In Finland, thatched cottages are protected by the government and cannot be privately owned. Laura and Dan said it was very special to be able to buy and restore the 300-year-old cottage, known locally as "the Spinning Wheel".
The family said they have lost €235,000 in the fire, adding that they are trying to raise awareness that "heritage will disappear very fast if nothing is done".