An Taisce seriously concerned as Star Wars filming returns to Skellig Michael

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Disney and Lucasfilm will return to the remote Irish island to shoot scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII
Disney and Lucasfilm will return to the remote Irish island to shoot scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII

An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, has expressed serious concerns for the wildlife on Skellig Michael as film crews begin descending on the Unesco World Heritage Site.

Disney and Lucasfilm will return to the remote Irish island to shoot scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII this coming Monday. 

Skellig Michael is UNESCO World Heritage Site and a site specially designated for the protection of certain bird species and their habitat under both EU and Irish Law.

The remote island off the coast of Kerry is home to bird species including puffins, peregrine falcons and guillemots,

Earlier this week, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, confirmed she has granted consent for Lucasfilm to return to the remote island off the south coast of the country. 

Minister Humphreys has described the move as a significant boost for Ireland as an international film location. The proposal for filming was finalised at the end of last week, and comes at the end of months of close consultation between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the film production company, she said. 

"Strict environmental and ecological conditions are being put in place to ensure there is no negative impact on the UNESCO World Heritage Site and its birdlife," the Minister said. 
"An ecologist and specialist staff from the Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the National Monuments Service 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."
However, An Taisce has expressed deep concerns for the wildlife on the island. 
An Taisce heritage officer, Ian Lumley, accused the government and tourism industry of exaggerating the role filming at the site could play in bringing visitors to it. 
“In terms of transparency the government has gone over to the dark side.
“False expectations are being created about this film project,” Lumley said.
“Only 180 people per day are allowed onto the island to visit it – weather permitting of course. And these visits are very well controlled and supervised with a dedicated pathway for the tourists while more sensitive areas are closed off to the public. So how can any more tourists be attracted to the Skelligs if there are restrictions on numbers?
“As for our environmental concerns, there will be no tightly controlled areas for the film crew of up to 100 people. There will be helicopters flying overhead near the roosting birds on the island and we don’t actually know how many flights have been allowed over Skellig Michael.”
 The charity said they will be seeking any legal action they can to oppose the decision to grant the licence. 
"An Taisce is therefore considering any and all options on this matter including legal challenge – and considers the manner in which this has been handled is an unparalleled subversion of environmental democracy, compromises the public interests and the role intended for the courts in accessing Justice under our Constitution and International Conventions Ireland has ratified."