Philip Bromwell reports from the monastic outpost of the early Christian period on Skellig Michael off the coast of Kerry.

The south peak of the island is currently inaccessible to the public as works are being carried out to repair its terraces and monastic settlements, 218 metres above sea level.  

Senior conservation architect Grellan Rourke who is working on the site says,

Every day something new is revealed.

Critics say that the work is neither conservation nor restoration, claiming it is instead "reconstruction" which is damaging the integrity of the site. 

Not everyone is happy about that this work is taking place. Independent archaeologist Michael Gibbons wants ministerial intervention to bring a halt to this work saying that,

The custodians of our built and natural heritage are the actual ones who are destroying key elements of it so rendering it useless for the next generation. If it's not authentic, if it's just a rebuild, we might as well have it as a Disney Land or build it in the middle of the Phoenix Park.

However, the Office of Public Works (OPW) believes this criticism to be completely unjustified saying that the work on the south peak is supervised, highly-skilled and documented. 

The future of this sacred site is at the centre of a most unholy row.

An RTÉ News report by Philip Bromwell broadcast on 21 July 2006.