Skellig Michael required “repairs” after “incidents” occurred during Star Wars filming on the island last week, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has confirmed.
It also revealed that Disney Lucasfilm was not charged any “facility fee” this year or the last for its use of the Unesco world heritage site to film scenes for Star Wars VII and Star Wars VIII.
Heritage group An Taisce, which has objected to the filming on Skellig Michael, said it had photographic evidence, taken before and after filming ended, showing fresh repair work to the entrance to the island’s monastery. The organization said that up to eight steps, including several above Christ’s Saddle, were dislodged at the site.
The environmental organization claims that Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys did not approve the filming under section 14 of the National Monuments Act, which relates to a range of potential impacts to a monument. Had Humphreys' department done so, it would have required the consent from the director of the National Museum of Ireland under section 14 of the Act, which also imposed a “very low threshold” on impact on the monument, the Irish Times reports.
The Irish Times reports that the OPW confirmed that a number of steps leading to the monastery were “addressed by OPW staff on site in recent days."
“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 said that the dislodging could be caused by “nesting birds” or the “passage of human feet” at any time, and that repairs were “normal” and “necessary” during and near the end of the tourist season.
It said the monastery entrance was damaged in earlier this summer during visits by tourists and had to be repaired.
“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,”the OPW said.
The damage took place mid-morning on Thursday, September 17the during the filming schedule.
The repair work took the resident stonemason staff only about one and a half hours, said the OPW, adding that “exceptional costs” were not accrued.
An Taisce chairman Charles Stanley-Smith said the images supplied to it “raise a lot of questions as to the nature of the damage incurred.”
An Taisce vice-chair Attracta Uí Bhroin said the group was worried about “the protected ecology and archaeology and . . . accountability and transparency in the decision-making on a matter of such significant public interest.”
Dr Fred Logue, solicitor for An Taisce, said the failure of the Minister and her department to provide “reasonable information on the proposed filming activities” at a national monument and world heritage site was “simply breathtaking.”
The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said a report was being compiled on the impact of filming, but National Parks and Wildlife Service division manager Dr Philip Buckley had “confirmed to the Minister that there were no issues from an ecological and habitats standpoint.”
The tourism industry has welcomed the filming, with Humphreys saying it was “another win for Ireland and the Irish film industry, which is a growing and dynamic sector of our economy.”