The UNESCO World Heritage site Skellig Michael is to remain closed for the rest of 2020 due to Covid-19 concerns.
The continued closure of the iconic island and location setting for scenes from the latest Star Wars trilogy of films was announced today by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
The site was first closed earlier this year on May 15 for staff and visitor safety amid the coronavirus outbreak.
A review had been undertaken given the relaxation of certain government restrictions as Ireland's exit from the lockdown was accelerated.
However, it was deemed not "feasible" by the OPW’s Heritage Service to reopen the island to visitors for the remainder of the scheduled season.
The boat voyage necessary to the island along with the visitor experience can not be managed for public safety due to social distancing according to the
OPW’s Heritage Service.
OPW Heritage Commissioner John McMahon said the decision was a shame but necessary.
"What we are announcing this week is the result of our own internal review which was designed to see if things had changed sufficiently for us to perhaps announce a late season and allow public visits during part of August and September at least," Mr McMahon said.
"Having considered all the issues however, we have arrived at the conclusion that this is not feasible and Skellig Michael cannot be made safe from Covid-19 for either visitors or staff. "Regretfully, therefore, we have to confirm that the Skellig Michael site will not reopen for the remainder of the 2020 season and we must instead plan for a resumption in 2021 when we will hopefully be able to accommodate visitors at the site again,” he said.
The site normally becomes inaccessible by October as sea conditions worsen meaning the visitor season ends in September.
A consultation by the OPW’s Heritage Service with local boatmen responsible for transporting visitors concluded it was not possible to make the necessary safety decisions required.
Located 12km of the coast of Kerry, visitors reach Skellig Michael by vessels carrying a maximum of 12 people.
These vessels make one round trip a day and are necessarily small due to the size of the pier on the island.