Ministers Agree All-Island Strategy To Safeguard Traditional Buildings

The Northern Ireland and Irish government's have agreed a new all-island strategy to safeguard the country's traditional rural landscapes and buildings.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Malcolm Noonan TD have signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding on vernacular heritage - rural and urban landscapes that comprise houses, buildings, structures and features that were built by 'ordinary' people, including traditionally constructed mud and stone cottages, with slated, thatched or corrugated iron roofs.

The signing coincides with a campaign by both Departments, North and South, to raise awareness of this key part of our culture and heritage.

A joint Department for Communities and Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage publication entitled 'Caring For Our Vernacular Heritage' has been issued to tens of thousands of landowners, specifically targeting rural, farming communities where many of these distinctive buildings are located – occupied, disused or derelict.

Minister Hargey has urged families with these historic dwellings still in their ownership to take steps to protect them and their heritage, as the majority of vernacular buildings are not listed by local authorities or government bodies for protection or conservation.
News Image
She said: "Our heritage of ordinary rural buildings across the island has been disappearing fast over the last 30 years; they make our rural areas unique. In these times of climate change, reusing buildings makes sense and I commend this joint publication that highlights the fragility and value of this cultural layer of our common heritage. It's important moving forward that we realise the value of these buildings and share best practice in how to care for this key part of our heritage."

The publication, which will be freely circulated to 38,000 farming families across the North, explains what vernacular buildings are and provides some basic advice on their care.

Thatch, the most identifiably vernacular roof covering was once found on hundreds of thousands of buildings, in urban as well as rural areas, but today only a few thousand thatched roofs remain across the island. It is estimated that there are 180 thatched buildings across the North and the Department for Communities is currently conducting a survey to determine their numbers and condition.

Minister Noonan added: "The rural houses, farm buildings and farmyard features that comprise our vernacular heritage are a common cultural legacy that connect us to the past, but they are also a vital part of a sustainable rural future. Minister Hargey and I want to take an all-island approach to advance the understanding and nurturing of this valuable cultural and social asset and today's Memorandum of Understanding enables this through a 'gentle rehabilitation' approach that is rooted in traditional skills and local materials to preserve regional character and a strong sense of place in the landscape. I welcome this collaboration and look forward to making significant progress by working together to preserve our vernacular heritage."

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

05 May 2022
Polls Open Across NI
Polling stations across NI are open as voting gets underway to elect 90 new members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Polls opened at 7am this morning, 05 May, and will remain open until 10pm tonight at some 600 locations across NI. Approximately 239 candidates are competing for 90 seats across 18 constituencies.
03 May 2022
Energy Price Increases Come Into Effect
Two price rises announced by energy supplier Firmus Energy has come into affect, impacting some 102,000 customers. A 37% price rise across Belfast will impact some 47,000 customers, while a 16.31% rise in its Ten Towns network will affect about 55,000 customers.
26 April 2022
Moy Park Announces 'Spring Chicken' Foodbank Initiative
Moy Park has announced a new initiative that will see the leading food company donate £100,000 worth of products to local foodbanks. The 'Spring Chicken' initiative aims to provide foodbanks with quality nutritious produce to help those struggling with everyday living costs and poverty in our local communities.
13 January 2020
Minister Swann To Meet Health Unions
Stormont's new health minister Robin Swann is to meet trade unions over the ongoing strike action. Ulster Unionist minister Robin Swann has pledged to solve the pay dispute "right away". Nurses and healthcare workers have been engaged in industrial action over staffing shortages and a lack of pay parity in recent weeks.
06 January 2020
SDLP Calls For Mental Health Minister
The SDLP has called for any future Stormont Executive to prioritise mental health and wellbeing with a dedicated Junior Minister. As talks to restore devolved government continue, the party's deputy leader Nichola Mallon said all parties are agreed on the need to unite to tackle the mental health crisis.