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New Star Wars filmed on historic Christian site in Ireland

Episode VII comes out later this year

Plans by Disney to film part of the new Star Wars film on the historic island of Skellig Michael have been strongly criticised.

The island off the south-west coast of Ireland has some of the best-preserved remains of early Christian monasteries. A world heritage site since 1996, it is seen by many as a place of peaceful contemplation.

Part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was filmed on the island in July and August last year, and Disney are returning next week to film additional scenes.

Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote that “Disney wants Skellig Michael. It decided that this fragment of an ancient imagination has a power that it can use in its Star Wars franchise. And it’s easy to see why it does want it. Corporate culture has an insatiable desire to own everything it does not already have, to monetise all wonders, to reduce everything that is genuinely, heart-stoppingly strange to the merely exotic.”

He accused the Irish government of giving in to Disney. “There’s nothing we won’t sell, no line we won’t cross, no aspect of our heritage that is not available for exploitation,” he wrote.

He is also critical of the non-disclosure agreements which Disney has forced everyone from staff at the Office of Public Works to local boatmen to sign.

Some believe that the island’s appearance in a Star Wars film would boost its publicity, bringing further tourism and revenue to the area. But others disagree. Tourism to the island is already limited because of heritage preservation concerns.

“I’m shocked by what’s happening,” Waterford resident Peter Wright told the Irish Independent. “It’s akin to handing the Book of Kells to a major corporate brand for a weekend and saying do what you want with that. Local businesses are selling Star Wars T-shirts, it’s all wrong. It’s a real case of taking a short-term view to make a few euro and not considering the long-term consequences. The Skellig is absolutely incredible, why would we disrespect it in this way?”