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Wednesday 22 February 2017

Force is strong among locals as they back 'Star Wars' filming

Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30

Eileen Whelan of the Skellig Mist café in Portmagee, Co Kerry
Eileen Whelan of the Skellig Mist café in Portmagee, Co Kerry
Skellig Michael
Boatman Eoin Walsh

The return of the Jedi to Skellig Michael is being seen as a "gift" for the Iveragh Peninsula by many locals, despite controversy over the filming there.

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The welcome mat will be laid out today for the Disney Lucasfilm cast and crew as shooting on location for 'Star Wars Episode VIII' begins.

Locals hope it will do for the Iveragh Peninsula what David Lean's 'Ryan's Daughter' did for the Dingle Peninsula more than 40 years before.

Although the decision to grant permission for the filming of 'Star Wars Episode VIII' has been slammed by environmental watchdog An Taisce, with Birdwatch Ireland also expressing its concerns, it is a decision that has been well received locally.

And while the debate raged last week about using the UNESCO World Heritage Site, 'Star Wars Episode VIII' director and writer Rian Johnson, producer Ram Bergman and director of photography Steve Yedlin and crew were already on location.

Officially, the crew will be in the area between September 7 and 20, as these were the dates given to accommodation providers and caterers.

But the production team were walking around the island on September 1, taking photos of sites to feature in the movie.

Security staff are on 24-hour duty at an empty cottage on the pier at Portmagee and at Ocean View holiday village, a development of 10 houses that has been booked by the film company.

Boatman Eoin Walsh has the contract for delivering supplies for OPW staff during the tourist season from May to September.

As skipper of the Agnes Olibhear, his boat is one of only 13 licensed to carry 12 passengers a day, a rule that is strictly enforced.

He said sea conditions are the main factor in deciding if boats can land passengers.

"I've been doing this 22 years and this has been the worst year ever," said Mr Walsh.

"We lost about 40 days this year due to bad weather and because the swell was too high."

Eileen Whelan, owner of the Skellig Mist café, said she had already seen an increase in the number of visitors.

"There was no problem last year and they (the 'Star Wars' crew) were here for two weeks. It's a boost for Kerry and a boost for Ireland," she said.

Julie O'Connell of Deo's foodstore and post office in Portmagee pointed out that the area had been decimated by emigration and few houses in the village had children in them. Most are closed during winter.

"All our young people are gone," she said. "We depend on tourism here to survive for the winter. It's our only industry."

Irish Independent

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