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Star pause: 'Vomiting' visitors cited among reasons for Skellig closure

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In character: ‘Star Wars’ fans dressed as Chewbacca and Darth Vader visit Skellig Michael. Photo: Justin Kernoghan

In character: ‘Star Wars’ fans dressed as Chewbacca and Darth Vader visit Skellig Michael. Photo: Justin Kernoghan

In character: ‘Star Wars’ fans dressed as Chewbacca and Darth Vader visit Skellig Michael. Photo: Justin Kernoghan

Tourists vomiting in boats and visitors "panting" and "breathing heavily" as they climbed the steep stairs on Skellig Michael were among the reasons put forward for closing one of the country's most famous tourist attractions this year.

In May, the Office of Public Works (OPW) announced that the popular attraction off the coast of Kerry, which featured prominently in the latest 'Star Wars' trilogy, would be shut down to visitors for the summer.

Internal emails reveal concerns over a lack of washing or toilet facilities and how first aid could safely be given if anybody became ill or fell.

Officials also said attempting to keep people two metres apart would be impossible on the winding steps leading up to the monastic site.

One email said: "How do people stay two metres apart if they meet?

"People panting, breathing heavily as they pass each other etc.

"Also we have to consider risks if they have to administer first aid etc."

The boat trip to the island was also considered a serious problem, with people "needing physical contact/assistance to get on/off".

On board, there would also be issues with people "being unsteady on feet and maybe bumping into each other, getting sick".

An official wrote: "These are issues that the boatmen would primarily have to solve, but we have to be conscious of the issue here when we're risk-assessing the whole proposition."

An update circulated to senior officials in the OPW and the Department of Culture said the decision had been difficult with the "loss of an iconic tourism draw like Skellig Michael… very bad news".

The OPW was also worried about how it would get staff out to the island to check on the status of the world heritage site.

In late April, one boatman had been out around the Skelligs and reported that it looked like the "winter weather [had] not left any visible damage or rock falls".

Irish Independent


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