Star Wars filming to return to Kerry's Skellig MichaelTuesday 08 September 2015 23.20
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphries has confirmed that she has granted permission for Lucasfilm to return to Skellig Michael to shoot part of the new Star Wars franchise.
The minister said strict environmental and ecological conditions are being put in place to ensure the filming does not have a negative impact on the site and its bird life.
Last year Lucasfilm filmed part of the new Star Wars movie 'The Force Awakens' on Skellig Michael.
The location is a UNESCO world heritage site and there were objections from, among others An Taisce, which described the location as an area of exceptional sensitivity, and feared the bird population could be affected.
However, Minister Humphries has now confirmed she has granted permission for further filming to take place this month.
In a statement she said an ecologist and specialist staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Monuments Service will be present for the duration of the filming, and will have the authority to stop or modify it should concerns arise.
The statement outlines 16 measures to be implemented, including limiting the filming to September and confining activities to limited and specified areas.
Minister Humphries said it will be a significant boost for Ireland as an international film location. The filming in 2014 employed over 70 people.
An Taisce has called for information to be released as a matter of urgency regarding the production plans.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O'Rourke, Ian Lumley of An Taisce said it was imperative to know how the production company intended using the island and what measures it was using to protect the island's fragile physical and archaeological environment.
Mr Lumley also said he was particularly concerned about the frequency of helicopter flights and their possible impact on fledgling birds. He said he understood the numbers of flights were due to double this year compared to last year's filming.
Also speaking on the programme. Ms Humphries said: "I want to be very clear that my priority is to protect Skellig Michael and the UNESCO world heritage site and strict conditions are being imposed to ensure the environment is fully protected."
Welcoming the decision, Irish Film Board CEO James Hickey said: "I would like to extend again a very warm Irish welcome to the filmmakers returning to Sceilg Mhichíl and to wish them the very best for the filming, which we hope will be as successful as the previous visit.
"We very much appreciate their help and cooperation in bringing arrangements for this short visit to a satisfactory conclusion."
Independent TD for South Kerry Michael Healy-Rae has also welcomed the decision, describing it as a great development.
He told RTÉ’s News At One that An Taisce has lost all credibility by objecting to the proposal.
He said that the move is good for business and for local tourism.
He said that if An Taisce had its way, people would be living in the dark ages with no electricity in their homes.