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Skellig Wars Episode II: The Minister Strikes Back

Minister Heather Humphreys says those opposed to the filming on environmental grounds are wrong.

Skellig Michael will reportedly be used as the backdrop for Luke Skywaker's refuge in the upcoming film.
Skellig Michael will reportedly be used as the backdrop for Luke Skywaker's refuge in the upcoming film.
Image: Wikimedia

DISNEY-OWNED LUCASFILM are to return to Skellig Micheal for a second bout of Star Wars filming with Arts Minster Heather Humphreys hitting out at her critics.

Permission has been granted for the filming despite objections from environmental groups like An Taisce.

Filming already took place last year on the rocky island some 12km out from the Kerry coast but more is now planned ahead of the film’s Christmas release.

The makers of ‘The Force Awakens’ are expected to film again for two to four days.

Skellig Micheal is the largest of the Skelling Islands and was the site of monastic settlements for hundreds of years before the 12th century.

It is one of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Republic of Ireland.

As well as the historic significance of the site, An Taisce has raised concerns about the delicate ecology of the site being affected and especially the concern that rats could be accidentally transported to the island.

They are calling for details about what exactly the filmmakers are planning.

But Humphreys argues that people opposed to the filming on environmental grounds are mistaken:

Those attempting to turn this into a negative story seem to be completely overlooking the fact that up to 180 people visit the island on any given day. In contrast, for the short duration of filming being proposed, peak activity levels will involve about 100 people, under strict supervision and with extensive ecological and biodiversity safeguards in place.

In announcing that she has consented to the new filming, Humhpreys said that an ecologist and specialist departmental staff will be present for the duration of the filming and will have the authority to stop or modify filming at any point, should any concerns arise.

The department said that protocols will be in place for a range of activities including food storage and helicopter usage.

“Last year, I witnessed first-hand the stringent ecological and environmental safeguards and mitigation measures put in place by my department, as well as by the OPW, to ensure that this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage site and its outstanding birdlife were fully protected during three days of filming,” she said.

shutterstock_48233359 Skellig Michael (right) is just over 200m tall. Source: Shutterstock/NTM Photography

Birdwatch Ireland says they are particularly concerned about plans to conduct filming on and around the island after dark by helicopter.

The department has said that there is to be limits on the time of day the filming can take place and that it will be restricted to “during the day or at dusk”.

During filming last year, the naval vessel the LE Samuel Beckett was also tasked to the island leading to objections to taxpayers money being used in this manner. It was argued by the department that the Naval Service was used for marine safety purposes.

After it became known that the filmmakers were seeking permission to return to the island, more objections were raised, perhaps most notably by Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole.

Read: Star Wars filming did not harm Skellig’s bird population, Minister insists >

Read: Could Star Wars cost Skellig Michael its Unesco World Heritage status? >

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Rónán Duffy

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