In his column for the Irish Times, Ireland's most influential opinion writer Fintan O’Toole has criticized the government’s decision to allow Disney Lucasfilm to return this month to Skellig Michael, a Unesco World Heritage Site, to film additional scenes for the upcoming Star Wars movie “The Force Awakens.”
Skellig Michael was one of the most famous Chrrisitan sites, where Irish monks prayed and fasted far from the mainland. The numbers of tourists are limited because of heritage preservation concerns,
O'Toole writes that "Disney wants Skellig Michael. It decided that this fragment of an ancient imagination has a power that it can use in its Star Wars franchise. And it’s easy to see why it does want it. Corporate culture has an insatiable desire to own everything it does not already have, to monetise all wonders, to reduce everything that is genuinely, heart-stoppingly strange to the merely exotic,” O’Toole writes.
He goes on to say that ”… in collaborating with this process, the Government is making it clear that, for contemporary Ireland, there is no “beyond” at all. There’s nothing we won’t sell, no line we won’t cross, no aspect of our heritage that is not available for exploitation. If a giant global corporation wants anything, whatever it might be, the word “no” is simply not in the official vocabulary.”
O’Toole also objects to how Disney, in taking measures to maintain secrecy around the movie, has prevented the public from knowing what is happening on the the site.
“Staff at the Office of Public Works are known to be extremely concerned about Disney’s return to the extremely fragile Skellig Michael but they’ve been forced to sign confidentiality agreements to protect Disney’s intellectual property,” he writes.
“The department refuses to answer questions, telling The Irish Times last week that ‘All queries relating to film projects should be directed to the Irish Film Board’. And the Irish Film Board? ‘The producers expect that any of our dealings with them are kept confidential until they are ready to make the announcements they want to make in relation to their projects.’
“The public, in other words, will know whatever and whenever Disney decides. When it comes to abasing ourselves, nothing is truly beyond the beyonds.”
Heritage group An Taisce has objecting to the filming and have expressed concerns that the return to the island could pose a threat to the natural habitat. The organization has written a letter to Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys asking her to outline the reasons for allowing the company to film at the site.
The Minister’s department has responded saying that Skellig Michael is a "world heritage site, a Special Protection Area and a nature reserve,” and that “all relevant protections apply.”
Minister of State Jimmy Deenihan has defended the decision to allow Disney Lucasfilm to film on Skellig, claiming that the sites exposure in the blockbuster will be beneficial for tourism.
“I think that this will expose Skellig Rock to the world and I think it will bring thousands of tourists over time to Skellig Rock, weather permitting,” said Kerry TD and former minister for arts. “Both Star War films are going to show what a gem Skellig Rock is to the world.