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Storm Troopers vs Storm-Petrels: Minister under pressure over Star Wars filming

There are concerns for the beauty spot’s seabird population ahead of the next round of filming in September.

ARTS AND HERITAGE minister Heather Humphreys has been asked to explain what’s happening in relation to planned further Star Wars filming at Skellig Michael.

It’s been reported more filming for the sci-fi film series is being planned for mid-September.

Director JJ Abrams filmed for two days on the Co Kerry island last summer – with Humphreys saying afterwards there had been no adverse impact on the bird population at the Unesco World Heritage site.

Concerns were raised by environmentalists, including Birdwatch Ireland, in advance of the project last year — the group said it would have preferred if the filming could have been moved to later in the year, when breeding season is over.

There were also concerns that the potential impact of the filming could cost the beauty spot its Unesco World Heritage status.

Skellig Michael renovation work Source: PA WIRE

National trust body An Taisce published a statement today raising questions over the status of the Star Wars project and asking whether proper environmental screening had been carried out.

“The first round of filming, last year was facilitated in breach of long established conservation policy for the World Heritage Site,” An Taisce said.

According to the organisation’s Ian Lumley:

“Existing levels of visitor activity are already at the level of or slightly in excess of what would be best for a site of this sensitivity, and even with current restrictions, wear and tear is visible. Therefore nothing unnecessary should be permitted, as is normal policy for the whole island, including the monastic remains.

“An Taisce believes the site has not just extraordinary beauty, value and presence, but that the site is very fragile and none of it was ever intended for the human numbers and the levels of activity already occurring during the summer season.

The island is also of extreme importance to the colonies of birds it supports. Given the approximate dates for the proposed filming this year, mid -September, there will still be considerable numbers of the two priority- listed bird species on the island, Manx Shearwaters and Storm-Petrels.

bird A Storm-Petrel Source: Patrick Coin/Creative Commons

An Taisce has three questions for the minister:

  • What is the legal and consent status of the project?
  • What screening has been carried out with regard to potential requirement for Environmental Impact assessment?
  • What screening has been carried out for Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Directive?

The Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht wasn’t saying much in its statement, when asked about the filming this afternoon.

Here’s their response:

“Sceilg Mhichíl is a national monument in the ownership of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the National Monuments Acts.

“As such, it enjoys the full range of protections afforded by those Acts, including a requirement that any works at, or in proximity to it, are subject to my prior written consent. The Skellig islands themselves also form part of the Skelligs Special Protection Area (SPA). The SPA is designated for the protection of various species of seabird and is subject to the provisions of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

“The Minister recently received correspondence from An Taisce. A reply to this correspondence will issue in due course.”

Read: Here’s why Star Wars is trending in Ireland this morning

Read: Here’s why Domhnall Gleeson called himself ‘British’ at Comic Con 

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Daragh Brophy

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