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Star Wars arrival not universally welcome

IT IS Star Wars' newest setting, but the arrival of Luke Skywalker and company on Skellig Michael has not been welcomed by everyone.

Michael Gibbons, who was the director of the OPW's archeological survey for 10 years, said the decision flies in the face of UNESCO's rules and was done without its authorisation.

The final day of filming of the JJ Abrams-directed Star Wars: Episode VII takes place on the island today, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 because of its Christian monastic ruins that date back to the 6th century.

One of the series' most iconic characters, Luke Skywalker, is reprised for the seventh installment, 30 years after Return of the Jedi.

Mark Hamill, who is now aged 62, is being accompanied on location in Kerry by his wife Marilou and his adult children, Nathan, Chelsea and Griffin.

Mr Gibbons said it is disgraceful that the Irish Navy was maintaining a two-mile exclusion zone around the island.

"This wouldn't have happened on St Michael's Mountain in Cornwall, on Iona in Scotland or in Canterbury Cathedral and these are the sites of similar importance," he said.


The Irish Film Board said consent was granted after "extensive scientific analysis" by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and was subject to "several agreed conditions and restrictions".

A statement said the filming programme had also been designed specifically to avoid disturbance with breeding birds on the island. But Birdwatch Ireland said it could not understand why permission had been granted in the middle of the breeding season and that September would have been a far more appropriate time.

Meanwhile, locals in Portmagee have welcomed the tourism boost filming has given the area, the dividends of which they expect will be felt for decades.

Owner of the Waterfront B&B John Murphy said 140 beds had been booked in the area.