Friday 15 December 2017

It's time to protect a new species ... the Millennium Falcon

A minor storm brewed up on Skellig Michael over the shooting of the new Star Wars movie.

And if Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo thought that taking on Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers was a fearsome task, they would have been ill-prepared for the battle that lay ahead with an archaeologist and a member of Birdwatch Ireland.

Firstly, Michael Gibbons, a former director of the OPW's archaeological survey has complained that the presence of the film crew files in the face of UNESCO's rules about the manner in which World Heritage Sites such as Skellig can be used.

"This wouldn't have happened on St. Michael's Mountain in Cornwall," he raged.


Adding fuel to the fire Birdwatch Ireland complained about the filming coinciding with breeding season for the island's birds.

Dr Stephen Newton went so far as to question the crew's schedule, feeling they could have accommodated the island's wildlife better. "In the autumn or spring there would be no problem," he said, "but right in the middle of the breeding season, it seems a little odd."

While this is an important concern there is something else that is "a little odd."

Why, when such an important project has come to Ireland, has it attracted negative publicity? Three months ago, when Kanye West and Kim Kardashian honeymooned here Failte Ireland were all over it, publicising their visit on Twitter, and saying how much it would boost Ireland's profile as a tourist destination.

Yet when it comes to Star Wars, the excitement has hardly been comparable.

Have people forgotten that Star Wars is the most famous, movie series ever made?

There was huge excitement when it was revealed that three new episodes were going to be made, featuring members of the original cast, as well as our very own Domhnall Gleeson.


This is first time a movie of this magnitude has been shot here and the Irish Film Board have stressed that all efforts have been made to keep disruption of wildlife to a minimum, and that the National Parks and Wildlife Service were happy for filming to go ahead.

Yet negative headlines continue to dominate the papers and Failte Ireland, still perhaps starstruck from 'Kimye's" flying visit, seem to have mostly overlooked the event.

We should be putting aside our petty complaints about monasteries and birds,and embracing Star Wars.

Ultimately, when it comes to getting our priorities right, there should only be one winner in the bird-related skirmish on Skellig Michael.

The Millennium Falcon.

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