It is estimated that up to 50% of thatched properties are not insured in Ireland, Sinn Féin TD for Tipperary Martin Browne told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Petitions and the Ombudsmen.

Speaking in front of the committee on Thursday 30 November, Browne read out a submission from petitioner Katie McNelis which begins with a brief background to the issues around insurance for thatched houses in Ireland.

"The insurance market for thatch[ed] properties doesn’t function normally. There are currently no insurers open for business in terms of quoting for new business at affordable prices.

"So, even thatch[ed] owners who have insurance are unable to shop around to find better quotes.

"By our estimate, up to 50% of thatch[ed] properties are not insured. This is due to insurance cover being either unavailable or unaffordable," she said.

Her submission went on to explain how it is believed that of those houses that are insured, they are covered by FBD and have been for a long time.

Affordable rates

However, McNelis claimed that while FBD continues to renew its existing thatched policies at affordable rates, it has decided not to offer any new thatched policies and is effectively closed to new thatched business.

"The remaining thatched property owners who are not fortunate to be covered by FBD are stuck with (mainly non-Irish) providers at unaffordable rates.

"Many of these insurers have no long term commitment to the Irish insurance market. They simply see Irish thatch as a way to make a quick buck," she said.

She added that because the insurance issue has persisted over such a long time, many thatched property owners have sought to resolve the insurance issue by removing their thatch.

However, the protected structure legislation, she said, prevents many from doing that.

"Consequently, thatch owners expect their Government to provide a solution to the insurance problem and, if none is forthcoming, would regard the protected structure legislation as onerous and unjust.

"It is simply not sustainable or acceptable to expect thatch owners to live and maintain these properties (as protected structures) without affordable insurance cover," she argued.