Sunday 25 September 2016

An Taisce opposes filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Skellig Michael due to risk of damage to site

Published 27/08/2015 | 14:16

Skellig Michael: PA Photo
Skellig Michael: PA Photo

An Taisce has raised concerns over filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens due to take place on Skellig Michael in September.

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The national trust for Ireland, tasked with conserving Ireland's heritage "both built and natural", has written to Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys requesting she outline why consent to film was granted.

Skellig Michael is a Unesco world heritage site and scenes for JJ Abrams movie were already shot there for three days last year.

An Taisce's letter, written by heritage officer Ian Lumley, points out that a shoot could endanger the island's two main bird species due to the"risk of accidentally bringing rats to the island with all the cargoes, including extensive food and catering" which could damage the bird populations.

During filming last year, every load transported in to the island was inspected at the point of exit from the mainland.  However, Mr Lumley added, "If weather conditions are adverse, this will be much harder to enforce."

He also noted that the upcoming proposed week-long shoot "clearly involves a larger scale project than last year, and of possible longer duration, increasing all the inappropriate impacts and overall gross threat involved."

However, local councillor Michael Cahill has welcomed filming, claiming that the economic and tourism benefits would be significant.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, he said, "This would be huge for south Kerry, the beautiful Skellig Michael is one of our biggest attractions and I can't help but think that many more people would come and see it now if the 'Star Wars' film crew return."

Of fears that filming could cause damage to the site, he said, "When they filmed for three days the last time they were there, they did not damage anything on the island as I understand."

The Office of Public Works, which manages and maintains guides on the site, directed all queries to the Irish Film Board last night.

However, the body failed to reply to queries from the Irish Independent yesterday.

Minister Humphries has yet to reply to the letter from An Taisce.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is slated for release on December 18.

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