Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys has revealed that the Star Wars shoot on Sceilig Mhichíl was only allowed to proceed after the film firm lodged significantly scaled-down proposals for the shoot.
The scaled-down proposals included a 90% reduction in helicopter activity in response to concerns for the protected bird population on the island.
The production was shot over three days at the World Heritage site in July, with several heritage experts querying the use of the island for the next instalment of Star Wars.
The Skellig rocks were home to a small group of monks between the 6th and 13th centuries and remain important sites for breeding seabirds.
Ms Humphreys said the initial filming proposals raised concern with respect to the potential impact of the activities on the Special Protection Area for birds at Sceilig Mhichíl.
In a written Dáil response to Independent TD Catherine Murphy, Ms Humphreys said: “Following discussion with my officials, the film company submitted a revised application with a significant reduction in activity and a redesign of several elements of the original proposal, including a 90% reduction in proposed helicopter activity for the project.”
She said: “The revised application was then screened for appropriate assessment in accordance with the Birds and Natural Habitats regulations. The screening concluded that, provided the avoidance and mitigation measures proposed by the film company were implemented in full, and subject to 15 special conditions attached to the consent for the project, the proposal would not have a significant effect on the Skelligs Special Protection Area.”
Ms Humphreys pointed out that “the activities of the film crew were supervised at all times by personnel from the Office of Public Works and my department’s National Monuments and National Parks and Wildlife Services. A condition of the consent was that the salary costs and expenses of NPWS staff were charged to the filming company”.
A spokeswoman for her department said: “There was no charge for the use of the island,” adding that the “economic and sectoral value of Star Wars shooting in Ireland is incalculable”.
Star Wars Episode VII is due for release on December 18, 2015.
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