An Taisce says Skellig Michael's significance 'being swamped' by Star Wars rebranding

The national trust argues that "the Disney franchise is now inextricably entangled" with the UNESCO World Heritage site

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Picture by: Brian Lawless/PA Archive/PA Images

11:54 21 Dec 2017 Stephen McNeice 11:54 Thursday 21 December 2017

There are warnings that Skellig Michael's UNESCO World Heritage status is being undermined due to its rebranding as a Star Wars site.

The national trust An Taisce is urging the Culture Minister to intervene and carry out an independent review on the impact filming has had at the protected site.

It comes as tourism bodies heavily promote the island following its prominent presence in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

The Irish Times, meanwhile, reports there were over 16,000 visitors to the site this year, despite permits being capped at 11,100 people.

Skellig Michael is currently one of only three World Heritage sites on the island of Ireland - alongside Brú na Bóinne in Newgrange, and the Giant's Causeway in Co Antrim.

Ian Lumley from An Taisce explained why they've written to Josepha Madigan about the Star Wars promotions.

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, he said: "The reason for the [UNESCO] designation is because of the significance of the early Christian monastic site, which is part of a group of sites extending across Egypt, Syria... [They] are part of the cultural history of the world.

"[Star Wars] brought about a rebranding, a change in the image and perception of the site. Every time the word Skellig is mentioned... that branding of the Disney franchise is now inextricably entangled with it."

He added: "The spiritual, the cultural, the historical significance of the island - the basis on which it was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site - is being swamped by that commercial rebranding."

In contrast, John Murphy - chairman of the Portmagee Development Group - argued: "Since Star Wars, there has been a big increase in tourism in Portmagee and the Skellig coast region. South Kerry has been decimated with people going abroad and going to Dublin to find work - so tourism is vital to this area here."

He observed that many visitors do not even step foot on the protected island - they instead stay on boats that travel around the island, or visit the Skellig Experience Visitor Centre.

He added: "We are promoting the Skelligs, and so are Fáilte Ireland. If Star Wars helps us in doing that, well and good."

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