The Empire Strikes Back... to Skellig Michael

Could the Jedi be returning after all?

Speculation has increased that Skellig Michael, off the coast of Kerry, will once again act as a set for the continuing Star Wars franchise after it emerged no regular sailings to the Unesco World Heritage site are planned for the week beginning September 14.

The Irish Examiner was told yesterday that boatmen are not available that week, fueling talk the uninhabited island will once again act as backdrop in scenes in a future Star Wars film.

Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens will hit cinema screens in December in one of the most eagerly awaited film events of recent years. The release of a trailer for the film earlier this year sparked a frenzied response from aficionados.

The rebooted franchise, directed by JJ Abrams, is expected to include scenes shot on Skellig when it hosted a three-day shoot last August.

However, the decision to allow Skellig to be used as a film set attracted strong criticism from heritage and wildlife groups. Other people who work on or have an interest in the island, such as Skellig guides and staff affiliated to the Office of Public Works (OPW), also expressed concern.

So too did Unesco in an email to the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, in which it said: “We would appreciate receiving your feedback about the steps taken by your authorities to ensure protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of both the cultural property and its ecological environment throughout the duration of the filming.”

It was reported earlier this year that Star Wars may return to the island this year, and the lack of regular boatmen sailings lends credence to the idea of its unique scenery getting an intergalactic makeover.

Calls to the department, the OPW, Unesco, and Disney in London and Dublin yesterday were unsuccessful in confirming a film shoot is going ahead in September. However, it was announced earlier this year that more Star Wars films, including three spin-offs, will be made.

All queries were diverted to the Irish Film Board, but no one was available for comment.

During last year’s shoot, the Irish Coast Guard was made aware of an exclusion zone around Skellig, but yesterday it said was unaware of such a request this year.

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