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14/03/2023 - Thatch Repair Grant Scheme Opens

Rope-thatched cottage at Tirhomin, Milford was one of the properties that benefitted under the Thatch Repair Grant Scheme in 2022.  The scheme allows for small-scale thatch repairs as evidenced by the ‘patch’ repairs shown.

Rope-thatched cottage at Tirhomin, Milford was one of the properties that benefitted under the Thatch Repair Grant Scheme in 2022.  The scheme allows for small-scale thatch repairs as evidenced by the ‘patch’ repairs shown.


Donegal County Council’s award-winning Thatch Repair Grant Scheme has opened for applications.  Now in its fifth year, the scheme assists the owners and occupiers of thatched dwellings and businesses with their maintenance and repair.  This year’s grant scheme consists of two strands: Stream 1 will provide advice and funding for small-scale thatch repairs up to €3,000 while Stream 2 will provide support for one large-scale re-thatching project up to €15,000 where the historic thatch building contributes to landscape character, history, culture or tourism.  The Thatch Repair Grant Scheme is open for applications ( until 12 noon on Friday, April 21 and is funded by Donegal County Council and The Heritage Council.


“The impact of Donegal County Council’s Thatch Repair Grant Scheme over the past four years has been considerable supporting 78 thatch repair projects throughout the county” said Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer.  “Our Thatch Repair Grant Scheme won the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Award in the ‘Heritage & Built Environment’ category in November 2020.  The award recognises the best local authority initiatives to promote public interest in, and knowledge, appreciation and protection of local heritage.  Despite the success of the Thatch Repair Grant Scheme, the rate of loss of historic thatch in County Donegal continues.  Within the past year, three historic thatched roofs have been replaced with slate on traditional buildings in Abbeylands, Ballyshannon; Faugher, Glencolmcille and Meenacarn, Lettermacaward without prior consent.  Homeowners are reminded that permission is required from Donegal County Council to replace an historic thatched roof as it constitutes a material alteration to the structure.  Challenges to be addressed also include the limited number of thatchers, especially rope thatchers, in the county and the lack of availability of thatching materials which threaten the future of these iconic buildings.” 


“Over the past year, there has been progress too.  The Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage working in collaboration with The Heritage Council and other key stakeholders has convened national steering groups to oversee a series of actions to conserve our vernacular architecture and our traditional thatched buildings.  The new Vernacular Built Heritage Strategy by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage is currently being implemented including measures such as the undertaking of a national survey of thatched properties which is nearing completion in County Donegal, gathering data on the incidence and causes of fire in thatched buildings, engaging with the insurance sector and the Department of Finance to try to make thatch insurance available and more affordable, and increased funding schemes for the conservation of thatched properties.”


In December 2022, funding was granted by LEADER to Narin Portnoo Rosbeg Community Co-operative Society Ltd. for the construction of Ireland’s first thatch school at the Dolmen Centre.  The construction of the building is the first step in developing a thatch school.  The next steps will involve establishing a course syllabus and accreditation to ensure that trainees benefit from a quality course covering both the theory and practice of all different types of thatch including rope thatch and scollop thatch which are found in County Donegal.  “It is imperative that at the end of the course that trainees will be at a level where they will receive a recognised qualification which would give a strong foundation to go on and get trained up with a thatcher and find a pathway into the thatching trade” said Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer with Donegal County Council.  “There are on-going discussions with training agencies and educational establishments to provide accreditation for a thatch course at the thatching school.  A concerted effort by key stakeholders such as the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, The Heritage Council, Údarás na Gaeltachta, thatchers, training agencies, academic departments is needed to ensure that there is an accredited course set up for when the thatch school building is completed.  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.”


“Working closely with owners over the past four years, the lack of availability of thatching materials has been raised as a barrier to carrying out thatching work.  This is something that also needs to be tackled at a local level.  There are best practice examples in Scotland of communities growing their own materials and harvesting them with traditional machinery to ensure the quality of the thatch material.  Although there is not currently any type of funding to set up a scheme for communities to grow thatching materials, any community group interested in setting up a pilot project next year should contact the Donegal County Council Conservation Office or Heritage Office and this will be explored.  Common thatch materials in County Donegal include rye, wheat and oat straw as well as flax.” 


“Donegal County Council considers that the conservation of our traditional buildings constitutes appropriate, sustainable and responsible development,” said Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer, Donegal County Council.  “At present, there are over 20 thatched buildings on the Record of Protected Structures for County Donegal and many more are eligible for inclusion.  The Thatch Repair Grant Scheme addresses several Donegal County Council plans and strategies including the County Donegal Heritage Plan to “Encourage the conservation of thatch and thatching skills and materials in County Donegal as a distinctive aspect of the county’s heritage” as well as several policies in the Donegal County Development Plan to protect and conserve our traditional buildings.  Types of small-scale thatch repairs that might be eligible to Donegal County Council’s Thatch Repair Grant Scheme include repairs to the eaves, the ridge, flashings around the chimney, holes, furrows, fixings, ropes, wire netting, the gable and the roof timbers or carpentry.”   


The launch of the Vernacular Built Heritage Strategy entitled ‘A Living Tradition’ in December 2021 by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage is an important development and provides national government recognition of the urgent need to understand, care for and conserve our vernacular buildings.  The conservation of historic thatch is an all of Ireland issue.  The issues facing historic thatch are similar on both sides of the border so there is much to be learned and achieved by sharing experiences and expertise.  Copies of a booklet outlining the vernacular built environment strategy for Ireland are available free-of-charge from the County Donegal Heritage Office.  Applications forms for the Thatch Repair Grant Scheme are available on-line from the Donegal County Council website ( or by contacting Joseph Gallagher, Heritage Officer or Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer at (074) 915 3900 or by e-mail at [email protected]  The Thatch Repair Grant Scheme is funded by Donegal County Council and The Heritage Council as part of the implementation of the County Donegal Heritage Plan.

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