Fears 'Star Wars' filming will disturb birds' mating season
A CONSERVATION group is concerned that filming for Star Wars could negatively impact on Skellig Michael's birds in breeding season.
Birdwatch Ireland said it believed filming was not scheduled to happen until September.
But instead film crews are making their way to the island today for the three-day shoot of scenes for the JJ Abrams-directed Star Wars: Episode VII that will feature many Irish actors, including Domhnall Gleeson (pictured).
The Herald has learnt that when negotiations began over six months ago it was feared if news of the proposed filming leaked out it could attract opposition from conservation groups.
The island that juts out of the Atlantic about 12km off the coast of south Kerry was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 because of the ruins of its monastic settlement that dates back to the 6th Century.
It is also the natural habitat for bird species including the puffin, manx shearwaters and petrels and was designated a Special Protection Area under Article 4 of the EU Birds Directive.
Access to the island is strictly controlled by the Office of Public Works.
Dr Stephen Newton, senior seabird conservation officer with Birdwatch Ireland, said: "I would be quite happy if the filming took place out of the breeding season."