IN a galaxy far, far away - well, just off the Kerry coast - a battle is raging. A war of words between the Irish Government and An Taisce, the Irish National Trust for Ireland.
The Irish Government have recently agreed to allow Lucasfilm to film scenes for Star Wars Episode VIII on Skellig Michael, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The franchise previously used the island to film scenes for Star Wars Episode VII, due for release in December.
The Skellig islands are well known for their seabird colonies, including around 4,000 rare Atlantic Puffin.
Ian Lumley, heritage officer for An Taisce warned: “The Minister has granted permission to a private company to trample for three weeks over one of the most sensitive archaeological and environmental locations in the state for the sole purpose of generating a profit.
“An Taisce is therefore considering any and all options on this matter including legal challenge.”
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys has defended the decision, saying: “Sceilg Mhichíl is one of our most dramatic and beautiful islands and it is very easy to understand why its stunning scenery has caught the attention of the makers of one of the world’s biggest film franchises.
“In considering Lucasfilm’s request to carry out limited filming on Sceilg Mhichíl this month, I have balanced the positive benefit it will reap for the Irish film industry and the South Kerry region with the need to ensure that the island’s unique environment and wildlife is fully protected.
"The return of Star Wars to Sceilg Mhichíl is another win for Ireland and the Irish film industry, which is a growing and dynamic sector of our economy."
An Taisce remain defiant though, claiming they have been kept in the dark by the department in order to appease the filmmakers.
Spokesperson for An Taisce Charles Stanley-Smith said: “We understand that materials are in the process of being landed and already landed on the site. This means that the impact and effect of this work is already happening, and we have been, and are being kept deliberately and entirely in the dark.”
"An Taisce naturally supports the role of film in promoting Ireland’s wonderful built and natural heritage. But this cannot be done at the cost of destroying it, or the goose that lays the golden egg for our important indigenous tourist industry and all to satisfy the transient interest of a film company whose purpose is to use this internationally significant UNESCO World Heritage Site – merely as film set.”