This is Not the Ireland You Are Looking For!

Not him again! - © Bernd Biege 2014
Not him again! - © Bernd Biege 2014

It is a bit of a joke, isn’t it? When tourists go trampling across a World Heritage site, nobody gives a toss. But have a US media giant doing the same, all of those (feeling) concerned go shouting about it. So the Star Wars saga (for me as dead as a dodo since Yar-Yar Binks first appeared) is using Skellig Michael as a filming location. And in a wave of bathos everyone and their grandmother lament this. Because, you know, it is not good.

Generally speaking. On principle. As bad as the motorway destroying Tara. Because … this isn’t the Ireland we were looking for, the unspoilt backwater where we could image ourselves intrepid explorers of a Third World country, with all the creature comforts included. And WiFi.

Not him again! - © Bernd Biege 2014
Not him again! – © Bernd Biege 2014

Yeah, right … whatever. First of all isn’t it amazing that nobody protested when “Hellboy” was filmed at that other World Heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway? Or when they did some spectacular Jackie Chan scenes there? Maybe not the full publicity impact as “Star Wars”, I guess.

And what is the fuss all about? Three days of filming, more than likely for some quick outdoor and scenic shots, the rest of the movie being done in a studio somewhere. Because, well … you don’t want Mark Hamill adding another scar by tumbling off those rocks, do we?

What will be left? More than likely nothing … or not more than the destruction brought by tourists day after day.

Of course, we will now have the nerds and geeks travelling to Kerry to see the Jedi monastery (one theory as to what actually was filmed on Skellig Michael). And that can only be good, considering the fact that tourism needs new impulses now and then. Most of these will not be the kind to don full cosplay armour and then scramble up the rock, most will be contend with a glimpse from dry land. And then have a Jediburger served by a dodgy Kerryman from a roadside chippie.

I guess most of the big brou-ha-ha is actually about that undefinable feeling that Ireland is being raped by Hollywood, US big business, the media, being made part of the evil empire, so to say. A gut feeling that filming on Skellig Michael is bad not because of any factual problems, but because of a … well … a feeling that it is. How dare they? This is our fairy-tale Ireland, not part of a galaxy far, far away and long, long ago.

Actually, I think many critics are living in a world of their own, far, far away from reality and populated with images of long, long ago gone Ireland, a John-Hinde-postcard image, comely maidens, barefoot (but smiling) children, donkeys, sheep … and, of course, sunshine. Because before the dastardly Brits and Yanks brought us industry (and what else have they every done for us), it was sunshine all day, every day. And we were poor, but happy. Or something like that.

Let me be clear – of course any filming done on a World Heritage site has to be done sensibly, without destroying anything. The same goes for any tourism. And the oft-heralded “exclusive tourism” of oh-so-concerned people to World Heritage sites has, all in all, more impact. Because they need permanent infrastructure.

But a lot of the criticism of the use of Skellig Michael by a film crew comes from those wishing to make those rocks their own, to have unlimited access on the basis of being “good people”. Banning all “bad people” on the basis of … what exactly? Often just on the basis that they simply do not want to share their “secret treasure” (which they trumpet out to the world, great keepers of secrets as they are) with the unwashed masses. Because, you know, the real friend of Ireland pays for the privilege, conforms to an irrational standard set by the Tourism Nazis.

Ireland is not for all in their eyes … and least of all for those who do not observe and preserve its exclusivity. So using the Skelligs as a filming location is bad because more people will want to come, because the “secret” is out, because those wearing Obi-Wan t-shirts will arrive in Kerry. That is bad. Is it?

I think the Force is very weak in this thinking … a thinking that speaks of self-righteousness to the max, where tourism should be regulated for the selected few “real friends of Ireland”.

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