Skellig boatman considers legal action over Star Wars

Permission for Disney to film on islands granted by Minister for Heritage

 Star Wars is being filmed at Skellig Michael next week.  Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Star Wars is being filmed at Skellig Michael next week. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

A Co Kerry boatman may seek an injunction against Disney, the Attorney General and the State if Skellig Michael is closed during the filming of scenes for Star Wars Episode VII.

Permission to film next week was confirmed by Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys on Tuesday.

Her spokesman said it was standard procedure to close a film scene to the public. However while shooting may start next week, it was weather-dependent.

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

Amongst the grounds of the application for an injunction 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 during the expected closed period between September 13th and September 18th, it is feared.

Mr Feehan, who has operated a family business bringing tourists to Skellig Michael from Ballinskelligs since the 1970s, said he has no problem with Disney. “They are perfectly entitled to operate but so are we,” he said.

Around 100 people who have booked trips with the Feehans would be discommoded if the island is closed, he said.

Ms Humphreys has described the use of the islands in the latest episode of the popular franchise as a significant boost for Ireland as an international film location. The proposal for filming was finalised at the end of last week, and comes at the end of months of close consultation between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the film production company.

Strict environmental and ecological conditions are being put in place to ensure there is no negative impact on the Unesco World Heritage Site and its birdlife. An ecologist and specialist staff from the Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Monuments Service will be present for the duration of the filming and will have the authority to stop or modify filming at any point, should any concerns arise.

Tourism bodies have described the choice of Skellig Michael as a major boost for South Kerry. However heritage and wildlife bodies have expressed serious concerns.