Views for Skellig Michael. Tourism Ireland

Skellig Michael's boatmen have told how they are finding it increasingly difficult to earn a living, despite the surge of interest in the remote island from Star Wars fans.

The protected Co. Kerry outpost, which featured at the climax of smash-hit movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was closed off to the public recently following the end of a busy four-and-a-half month visitor season.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) reported that a total of 13,500 people had visited the 6th century monastic island by mid-September, a rise from 12,560 for the entire season last year.

But veteran boatman Joe Roddy said the increase in visitor numbers could be explained by more days being lost at sea last year and further claimed the huge publicity generated by the Disney blockbuster brought him "no benefit whatsoever."

Valentia island-raised Roddy said that although demand to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site increased on foot of the movie, the restricted season and strict regulations on passenger numbers meant he had to turn hundreds of disappointed people away.

Skellig Islands.

Skellig Islands.

Star Wars has been great for the country and Co. Kerry, particularly the B&Bs and hotels round here, but it hasn't brought any benefit to the boatmen,” he said.

"Each boatman can only carry 12 passengers a day between mid-May and October 2 and I'd have been full to capacity even without the publicity from Star Wars.  The only difference Star Wars made is that there was more demand.  I got earlier bookings, but had to turn a lot of people away over the season.  Star Wars only gave me a bigger headache."

Roddy said most of the 13 licensed boatmen would take on further jobs out-of-season, as it's become increasingly difficult to survive on the Skellig trips alone.

He also said rising costs, including insurance fees and boat maintenance, are making it increasingly challenging to make ends meet.