Hollywood film makers have caused damage to an Irish heritage site while filming the latest Star Wars movie, according to The Office of Public Works (OPW).
The OPW said that ‘incidents’ had occurred during filming at Skellig Michael and repairs to the ancient monastery were necessary.
Skellig Michael is an island off the coast of Co Kerry which was home to monks in the 6th century. It is a Unesco World Heritage site and has been used by Disney Lucasfilm as a location for the last three Star Wars films.
An Taisce said there is photographic evidence from before and after the filming that showed fresh repair work was needed on the island’s monastery.
There were also up to eight dislodged steps leading up to the monastery that happened during filming. However, this isn’t unusual and can be caused by anything from human footsteps to nesting birds.
The OPW told the Irish Times: “This is an entirely normal procedure and does not involve the introduction of new material but rather involves the ‘tightening’ of steps which may have loosened, re-using the dislodged material.”
It isn’t uncommon during the tourism season and the monastery entrance was damaged in June after visits from tourists.
The OPW said: “The same material was again inadvertently dislodged during the days of filming and, in accordance with protocols, the incident was reported to the monitoring OPW staff.
“The entrance was immediately protected and access was curtailed while the repair was carried out.”
There were no ‘exceptional costs’ as a result of the filming as the damage was caused in mid-morning on Thursday Sept 17th and there were no material costs.
However, damage to the site wasn’t the only area of concern for conservation organisation An Taisce.
An Taisce revealed that the filming had not been approved by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys under the National Monuments Act.
For Ms Humphries to have approved the filming she would have needed approval from the director of the National Museum of Ireland, who would have imposed a “very low threshold” on impact on the monument.
There are two issues for concern for An Taisce, according to its vice chairperson Attracta Uí Bhroin. She said the organisation was worried about: “the protected ecology and archaeology and accountability and transparency in the decision-making on a matter of such significant public interest”.
There had been a number of concerns about the island before filming began for the second year in a row from various environmental and heritage groups.
However the tourism industry welcomed the filming of such a popular movie franchise at Skellig Michael as it could only help to attract more visitors.
Ms Humphries described the return of Star Wars as “another win for Ireland and the Irish film industry, which is a growing and dynamic sector of our economy”.
Not everybody was pleased though and An Taisce’s solicitor Dr Fred Longue said that Ms Humphries’ failure to provide “reasonable information on the proposed filming activities was simply breathtaking”.