Storm 'troopers' to inspect Star Wars site after winter weather causes safety concerns

Skellig Island Image copyright PA
Image caption Skellig Michael, off County Kerry coast, was designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1996

An Irish island used as location in the latest Star Wars film is to undergo safety inspections after it felt the full force of winter storms.

Skellig Michael, off County Kerry coast, is a Unesco World Heritage Site that has played host to 8th Century monks and 21st Century film crews.

Parts of Star Wars Episode VII were filmed on the rocky landmass in 2014.

The Irish government is to carry out risk assessments after storms brought down walls along visitor pathways.

'Swept away'

The government agency responsible for protecting and maintaining Irish heritage sites - the Office of Public Works (OPW) - confirmed that it has received "reports of significant winter storm damage" to the famous landmark.

An OPW spokeswoman said part of a wall at Cross Cove has been "swept away" and another wall along the main visitor path, known as the Lighthouse Road, has also been damaged.

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Part of a wall along the main visitor pathway has been swept into the sea

She said this could have been caused by either waves or rock debris falling from higher parts of the island during stormy weather and said there was "significant concern for visitor safety".

Experts from OPW and the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht will be brought to Skellig Michael by boat in the coming days to assess the extent of damage and any risk to tourists.

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Safety inspectors are to sail to the island to assess the risk to public safety

"It will be a priority for the inspection team therefore to establish urgently what the safety implications for visitors are this coming summer and how to address the matter, given the importance of the site to the local tourism economy in Kerry," the OPW spokeswoman said.

She added that staff had no information to suggest the monastery located high up on the island had been damaged, and said it was "not vulnerable to either wave or landslide action".

Frank Shalvey from the OPW's monuments section told the Irish Times newspaper: "It is going to take time to visit, to assess and rebuild.

"Visitor access could be compromised. We can only allow access where we are certain of the safety of visitors."

Skellig Michael was designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1996 and conservation campaigners unsuccessfully opposed the decision to allow the Star Wars crew to film on the island.

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