Skellig boatman to take on the Empire

A boatman could be on collision course with the makers of Star Wars after he pledged to bring pre-booked passengers to Skellig Michael – even if it clashes with filming.

Skellig boatman to take on the Empire

Ballinskelligs boatman Sean Feehan Snr confirmed to the Irish Examiner that he was “70% full” for bookings for trips to the island next week, and also had a number of bookings in place for the week after.

He stressed that he had no issue with Disney, who are behind the Star Wars series, but said no one had the right to prevent him from bringing people to and from Skellig Michael.

An injunction hearing earlier this year heard claims that the Department of Transport had unlawfully shortened the season available to boatmen to bring people to and from the Unesco World Heritage Site.

While an effective “exclusion zone” was in operation for last year’s film shoot on the island and widely observed, Mr Feehan said no-one was aware of a similar exclusion zone being put in place this year.

“I am taking people across,” he said. “If the island was closed then I would take appropriate action.”

Padraig O’Connell, solicitor for Mr Feehan, has confirmed that legal papers are being prepared with the intention of immediately going to the High Court.

Amongst the grounds of any injunction application will be the curtailment of Mr Feehan’s right to earn a living if the island is closed to him.

The closure of the island would also put Mr Feehan in a position of breach of contract with persons who have already booked his boat for trips.

It is understood some equipment that will be used in the upcoming film shoot has already been taken to Skellig, but bad weather has hampered attempts to bring more cargo across to the island.

A spokesman for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said it was not possible to confirm the filming dates at this point but “like all film productions, the shoot itself will be closed to the public”.

The consent given to film on the island, granted by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, allows for some flexibility.

The spokesman said: “No final decisions have been taken regarding an exclusion zone. If an exclusion zone is necessary, incremental costs will be recouped from the production company, as was the case last year.”

The shoot is expected to take four days but could take as little as two, depending on weather.

The spokesman also said that, contrary to claims made by An Taisce, departmental officials offered to meet the heritage protection group over the past week but the offers were refused.

The department has also published online some details relating to the granting of the consent, including an ecological assessment and a report on screening for the appropriate assessment.

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