Republic of Ireland news

Pleas for review of closure of `Star Wars island' in Co Kerry

501st Legion Ireland Garrison (Official Star Wars costuming club) taking a boat trip to Skellig Michael at the STAR WARS May the 4th Be With You Festival in Portmagee, Co Kerry. Picture by Justin Kernoghan

A SOUTH Kerry village has pleaded for the government to reopen its UNESCO World Heritage Site after saying it has been "devastated" by its closure to prevent coronavirus transmission.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) said its assessment concluded it was not feasible to maintain visitor and staff safety on Sceilg Mhichíl (Skellig Michael) 12km off the Kerry coast, which sees between 12,000 and 15,000 people a year visit on day trips.

The island was used to shoot scenes for Star Wars films The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, leading to a spike in its popularity.

Boat trips from Portmagee to Sceilg Mhichíl are estimated to be worth up to €8m per year to the region's economy, with 15 boats licensed to land visitors on the rocky outcrop which is home to a 6th century monastic site.

Boat builder Fionan Murphy who has one of the licences said while local people accept the OPW decision many would like it to be reviewed if circumstances improve.

"It's the ancillaries: the hospitality, the bars, the restaurants, the businesses - they are the people who would be big losers in all of this, as well as the boats," he told RTÉ.

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