An Taisce asks has DAHG gone over to the Dark Side?

8th September 2015
Press Release

An Taisce was emailed at 3:10 am today on the 8th of September by NPWS staff to advise them that a consent had been issued by the Minister for the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht in respect of further filming and associated works for Star Wars on Skellig Michael, from the day previously - the 7th September to 29th September. Skellig Michael is UNESCO World Heritage Site and a site specially designated for the protection of certain bird species and their habitat under both EU and Irish Law.

Responding to this email the Spokesperson for An Taisce Charles Stanley-Smith said:

"An Taisce is appalled by how the Minister and Department have conducted this matter . As of 13:16 today (8th September), neither An Taisce nor any member of the public has a copy of the consent or the application to review.

Yet we understand that materials are in the process of being landed and already landed on the site. This means that the impacts and effect of this work is already happening, and we have been, and are being kept deliberately and entirely in the dark.

Any opportunity to participate in the process before a decision was made was denied by the Minister, and now no opportunity is being provided to examine properly the consent, and the particulars and to consider any possible requirement necessary to challenge its legality in the courts – as we and others are lawfully entitled to do – is being actively subverted by the Department. The public interest in the protection of unique and vulnerable environment and the role of the courts on such matters is being compromised here in our view, to facilitate the film company."

He continued:

"An Taisce naturally supports the role of film in promoting Ireland’s wonderful built and natural heritage. But this cannot be done at the cost of destroying it, or the goose that lays the golden egg for our important indigenous tourist industry and all to satisfy the transient interest of a film company whose purpose is to use this internationally significant UNESCO World Heritage Site – merely as film set. The specific impacts and the consequential impacts to the site are of extreme concern to An Taisce, and the adequacy of the Minister’s assessment requires examination and our concerns as to the adequacy of same are only heightened by the fact she has acted and continues to act in an entirely non-transparent way – compromising the ability of concerned citizens to hold her accountable until it is too late. We have to ask what is she hiding?

We are painfully aware that this is the same Minister Humphreys who presided over a situation for weeks earlier this summer of an unlawful export licence for the Alfred Beit Paintings proposed for sale in Christies in the UK, a situation which required An Taisce to initiate Court proceedings against the Minister, which the State then conceded and settled, vindicating entirely An Taisce’s position on the matter.

We note the Minister relied on the particulars of the consent she has granted this morning in an interview with Sean O’Rourke. Yet no-one has the opportunity to review the consent as it has not been published ,together with the application and all the particulars with a view of satisfying themselves on same and the Minister’s assurances to us relying on a consent from July 2014 is meaningless as a) it hasn’t be pubished, b) this years filming is far more significant in terms of time than last years and c) it is taking place at a different time of year with different ecological considerations.

As it stands we find it difficult to reconcile a number of comments of the Minister on her consent with the limited extracts of particulars we have been provided with. The Minister current assurances are therefore in the context meaningless to us, and we can have no confidence in her, or her administration on this matter. We call on the Minister to disclose immediately all particulars in relation to this consent which she has deliberately refused to provide to date."

He added:

"An Taisce has been seeking information on this matter from the 11th of August, amounting to over 8 requests todate, and finds itself still seeking critically relevant information with works now proceeding."

Ian Lumley Heritage office for An Taisce said

“We learned last Friday at 6:44 pm that an application was expected to be lodged today, and actively sought this over the weekend so we could make some meaningful comment before the Minister decided on this matter. Our concerns were based on the fact the Minister received an application also on a Friday (20th July for the 2014) for the 2014 filming of Star Wars last year and granted consent 2 days later on a Sunday 22nd – and that consent still isn’t published. We are left in a situation of not knowing whether preparatory works being undertaken were authorised or un-authorised until this 3:10 am email. It is utterly unacceptable for the Minister, charged with the protection of cultural heritage to conduct herself in such a secretive fashion. This is particularly so where the Minister has granted permission to a private company to trample for three weeks over one of the most sensitive archaeological and environmental location in the State for the sole purpose of generating a profit.

An Taisce is therefore considering any and all options on this matter including legal challenge – and considers the manner in which this has been handled is an unparalleled subversion of environmental democracy, compromises the public interests and the role intended for the courts in accessing Justice under our Constitution and International Conventions Ireland has ratified."

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org