Thatched houses are disappearing across the island of Ireland with homeowners finding it almost impossible to secure insurance for the historic dwellings.
It is estimated that there are just over 1,000 thatched cottages remaining on the island of Ireland and owners say that the historic dwellings could become extinct unless the Irish Government helps them secure affordable insurance.
Some homeowners have received quotes of roughly €8,500 to insure a thatched house, while others have been unable to obtain any insurance at all since the recession of the late 2000s.
Meanwhile, Irish companies that provided thatched housing insurance are no longer taking on new customers due to "serious deterioration in the claims experience", while UK providers have exited the Irish market since Brexit.
Rory Stewart, a thatched homeowner in Ardara, County Donegal, recently penned a letter to the Irish Times warning that the dwellings would become extinct if people were unable to obtain insurance.
"Without an insurance provider left in the market, more and more of our thatched heritage will continue to disappear," Stewart warned.
"Now that no insurance providers remain, will the State intervene to provide support to insure our Irish heritage or is this the beginning of the end for the thatched heritage of Ireland?"
Seán McLaughlin, a 78-year-old man from Malin Head in Donegal, told the Irish Independent that his home has been uninsured since 2007.
"I was insured for about 10 years. I didn’t have any claims or anything, but around 2007, when the big slump came, I got a letter from my insurers to say that the underwriters weren’t willing to underwrite anymore. That’s the last time I was insured," McLaughlin told the Irish Independent.
McLaughlin said he bought his home in the small village of Culoort in the 1970s, adding that his house was one of six thatched cottages within 100 yards. However, only his house remains in the village today.
"When you think of Ireland, you think of a pint of Guinness and a thatched house, but it’s one aspect of our history that is rapidly disappearing," McLaughlin said.
Trish Donovan, who owns a thatched cottage in Kilmore Quay, County Wexford, revealed that she was forced to turn to German insurance companies to secure insurance for her home.
She had previously removed a stove from her home and ceiled the building's chimney in order to meet Irish insurance regulations but was still unable to obtain insurance because her house was within 50 meters of another thatched house.
"We had to go abroad to a German company. Ours is over €2,000 and that’s for normal house insurance. For a three-bedroom house, that’s a lot of money," she told the Irish Independent.
Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling on the Government to address the disparity between regular property insurance and thatched insurance.
"If this insurance situation is left to continue, then our heritage will suffer,” the petition said.