The remote Irish island of Skellig Michael is more than a millennium old and has long been one of Ireland's most treasured heritage and tourist attractions, but the pyramid-shaped island has garnered even more attention since its use in Star Wars: The Force Awakens — and Irish conservationists are worried fans of the longrunning franchise will destroy the ancient ruins after its Star Wars "rebranding."
Skellig Michael operates as Ahch-To, the "most unfindable place in the galaxy," in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its recently released sequel, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and fans are flocking to the site where Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) hid himself away and was sought out by Jedi-to-be Rey (Daisy Ridley).
According to the LA Times, preservationists are alarmed: though only a relatively small number of Ireland's annual 9.5 million visitors journeyed to the island — 16,755 this year — Irish heritage preservation group An Taisce reached out to Josepha Madigan, Ireland's Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, expressing concern about the island's historical legacy and its presence in a galaxy far, far away.
"Like a virus, the imagery and branding of the Star Wars commercial franchise with all its plastic merchandising has contaminated and superseded the history and identity of the Skellig," An Taisce wrote in its letter, admonishing the Disney-owned franchise and its fans' visits to the monastic ruins, which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A press officer for the official reported Minister Madigan "remains absolutely happy that all due and appropriate care was exercised at all times during the filmmaking."
Skellig Michael is one of 1,073 UNESCO-listed sites, a listing that includes the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, the Great Wall of China and Vatican City.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now playing.