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Skellig reopening fears after rock fall on Star Wars island

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Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

Kerry tourism chiefs are seeking a common-sense approach to reopening Skellig Michael to visitors.

The move came as fears mounted that a recent rockfall on the island was being used as an excuse by authorities to ensure the offshore attraction, which made global headlines because of its links to the Star Wars films, remains closed until at least next summer.

Portmagee Development Group official Mark Conway said Skellig Michael was a vital attraction for the area.

Visits to the island are coordinated by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

It has not opened to the public this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and fears are growing that it may now remain closed until mid-2021.

"It's a mountain out in the middle of the ocean, so of course you're going to have rock falls from time to time, particularly with the amount of water that has fallen as rain in the last few weeks," Mr Conway told Radio Kerry.

"If there's a will, you'll find a way to move these rocks, no problem.

"Rocks have fallen before and they've been removed before.

"It's another excuse, really, by the OPW to keep it closed. We've heard other excuses such as touch points for the boats, people getting sick, social distancing on the rock."

Paul Devane, who operates Skellig Michael Cruises with his wife Mary, said: "Here in Portmagee we'll welcome visitors in August, Septem- ber and even October. We'll take anything we can get."

The Skellig islands are Unesco-listed heritage sites.

Star Wars actors Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Daisy Ridley (Rey) both filmed extensive scenes on Skellig Michael in 2015 and 2016.

Skellig tourism exploded as a result and employment across south west Kerry benefited.

Safer

Locals organise Star Wars-themed tours on boats named Force Awakens and Skellig Walker.

An OPW spokesperson said: "The OPW consulted with local boatmen who are responsible for bringing visitors to the island and investigated with them the possible changes that might be made in order to make the visitor experience safer.

"However, it was clear that the scale of the challenge was such that the proposition was not feasible.

"Workmen will continue to travel to the island until the end of September."