Skellig Michael might be transformed from a place of sanctuary to the scene of an intergalactic Hollywood blockbuster.
There is mounting speculation that the Unesco World Heritage site will welcome cast and crew from the new Star Wars film after the OPW confirmed it will make the island available next week.
In a statement, it said it would be providing “onsite support through our staff who are present on the island throughout the summer, as normal” and that it would “continue to manage visitors throughout and will, obviously, continue to safeguard the national monument and the island, which is a world heritage site”.
The production is being supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht and the Irish Film Board.
The rebooting of the Star Wars films, under director JJ Abrams, involves original cast members such as Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, plus others including Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson.
Star Wars: Episode VII will pick up 30 years on from the ending of Return of the Jedi.
One local businessman said he understood a film company and the OPW had been in talks with private boat operators in the area ahead of a planned film shoot on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week.
On the Facebook page of Ballinskelligs Boats, a posting from July 22 read: “We have had many people booking day trips to the Skelligs from July 26th to August 2 who have been told the island will be closed as there is a film company who have booked out all the boats. This is not the case. All boatmen have had an offer from the film company. We understand some have accepted the offer. In our case we have declined and not accepted it.
“We feel we owe a duty to those B&Bs who support us in the low season to have space available in the high season and not to disappoint people who have already made reservations.
“We also feel it completely unreasonable to make a film at a National Monument at the peak of the season. Our boats will therefore operate throughout July and August as normal.”
The company later told the Irish Examiner it would not be making any comment.
It is understood the UK-based film production company has been in contact with local boat operators — who are limited to one trip a day to the island — for the past month. It is also believed boat operators were keen not to disappoint tourists, with some suggestion that extra trips might be permitted on another day, although this was not confirmed.
Nevertheless, some people already own the T-shirt.
Killarney businessman Declan Mulvany was off the mark faster than any high-tech space craft. Within minutes of the news, he had created and was selling ‘Skellig Wars’ T-shirts at his and Joan Moriarty’s Irish Pub Shop in the Kerry tourist town. “I had a great reaction to them and they’re flying out the door,” he said.
The Irish Film Board said it was currently working across a range of projects “but we are not in a position to comment on the details of those productions”.