Both tourists and natives love the thatched cottages you still come across in this country, few and far between as they can be. While the beautiful premises for these postcards from our past may be generational, according to professional thatcher Jimmy Lennon, who says that thatch is often considered a poor man’s robe who does not command respect in other European countries.
E was reminded of this a few years ago while working in a thatched hut and a mother and daughter were watching him. “The daughter was saying ‘Oh, it’s lovely,’ while her 70-year-old mother said, ‘I hate thatch and everything about it.'”
That old lady might not have to look at these heritage homes for long.
“Thatch loss is about 20 to 25 percent over the past 20 years,” Lennon says. “At that rate, heritage parks would only have thatch houses left.”
At the core of the crisis is the fact that, unlike car insurance, which you are required by law, property insurance is not a legal requirement. Insurance companies are free to turn down thatched homeowners or make them an offer they have to turn down.
Unless you deem it appropriate for an elderly widow who has maintained and protected the thatched pub that has been in her family for generations – on which she has paid insurance for 45 years and has never claimed – To accept a quote for € 12,500 per year .
“It may be nothing to a large developer, but it is insane and impossible for us,” says his daughter, Katie McNellis. “My mom’s pub is her property yet she can’t do anything with it because she can’t get insurance. She can neither rent nor sell it nor can she live there peacefully.”
Katie says they were so desperate that they closed the pub when they were told that their only chance of getting cover was to convert it into a home residence – only then they were informed that the insurance company’s quota for thatch was full .
Even before Brexit hit, it was always a strain to find affordable insurance at this pub in rural Tipperary. Then Katie’s father passed away in December 2020 and her mother could not renew the insurance the following summer because the insurance company said they were leaving the market.
“I feel like I’ve exhausted every single path,” says Katie, who tried in vain to look after insurance for her distressed mother. From banks to politicians to legacy councillors, it seems one could not help. “I sent a petition to the Orechtas Petitions Committee and they sent the findings of their committee meeting to the Central Bank and the Financial Ombudsman, both of which have said they cannot do anything. We wrote to Minister Malcolm Noonan and we did not receive a response. The Finance Minister sent almost the same letter this year as he had sent last year.
Katie says that many thatched home owners face the same problem, but they feel too weak to speak up. “None of this is right. That’s why I put up a petition on change.org and some of us came together to form a ‘Thatch Insurance Action Group’. Our government is letting us down. They are the ones who are in the law.” Changes can be made. At present, insurance companies are not breaking any rules. There is a need to change the rules.”
She says it is not only the lack of availability but also affordability that is an issue.
“The disparity between regular property insurance and pallet insurance in this country is appalling. In many cases, nonstandard homes pay four to five times as much. Even if my 81-year-old mother could get a quote, So how will she pay the extortion fee, on pension, not to mention maintaining a listed building?
On what note Katie hit the thatched roof when a heritage councilor asked her why insurance was necessary. “People in these properties should be able to live their lives. Yet with this whole Kampo culture, they may not even have a visitor in case an accident happens. What planet are they living on?”
Perhaps one where being too precious but overly practical may be the last straw for those thatched cottages we should cherish.