Skellig Michael may not be a filming location of the next two Star Wars movies, according to recent reports.
It is news that will come as a huge disappointment to Irish fans of the hit movie franchise – but even more so to Ireland’s tourism industry.
The Irish Mirror say that the producers of the latest movie – The Force Awakens – have decided against returning to the island off the Co Kerry coast because of the environmental issues that were raised when they filmed there last year.
Skellig Michael was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996 and there were concerns in some quarters that filming at the island could cause damage.
Conservation groups were worried about both the habitat of the wildlife on the island and the 6th century monastic buildings.
However, the filming went ahead and was completed without incident. Reports said that while some damage may have been caused to steps, it was no more than would be expected during any busy tourism season.
Despite this, the film makers are thought to have decided against returning and have built a replica set in a film studio.
Jason Ward is editor of fansite MakingStarWars.net. He said: “The Skellig Michael sets have been built and in some cases recreated at Pinewood.
“The location of the set at Pinewood is the same place they filmed the Jakku village scenes for The Force Awakens.
“Filming at Skellig Michael was just too complicated for environmental reasons. Migrating birds have more power than any corporation over that isle.”
The island featured in a brief but significant part of the latest film. The scene included striking views from the island as well as shots of the long steps to the summit and the ancient beehive cells.
The news hasn’t been officially confirmed by Disney or Lucas film, but if Ward is correct it could be a huge blow to Ireland’s booming tourism industry.
The country had its record year for tourism in 2015 and officials were hoping that the association with Star Wars would help to maintain that momentum.
Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons had previously said: “The opportunity to associate the Ireland brand with the Star Wars brand is something that’s going to be good for all of us.
“The release of The Force Awakens presents Tourism Ireland with a truly unique opportunity to highlight the South West and Ireland in 2016.”
It would be a shame if the relationship was to come to an end. Skellig Michael had been named as one of the world’s top ten destinations for Star Wars fans and Disney Ireland had arranged a special preview showing of The Force Awakens in Co Kerry as a thank you to the locals .
The cast also seemed to enjoy their time in Ireland with Luke Skywalker legend Mark Hamill pouring pints in a local Irish pub and later describing how he experienced a ‘wave of emotion’ when visiting Skellig Michael.