“It is utterly unacceptable for the Minister to conduct herself in such a secretive fashion”

9 Sep

skellig

Ireland’s National Trust, An Taisce, has issued a scathing response to a decision by Minister Heather Humphreys to allow Disney to return to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Skellig Michael to film more Star Wars scenes.

The Minister, who has also recently given the go-ahead to another season of cruel hare coursing and is allowing hunters to shoot Red-listed birds out of the sky, is strongly criticised by An Taisce for her “secretive” decision to allow a film crew to “trample for three weeks over one of the most sensitive archaeological and environmental location in the State”.

An Taisce says that over the past four weeks, it made 8 requests to the Department of Arts and Heritage for information but only received confirmation that permission was granted for filming in a 03.10 am email yesterday 8th September. That was the day after the permission period commenced – thus depriving An Taisce or anyone else of the opportunity to challenge it. “It is utterly unacceptable for the Minister, charged with the protection of cultural heritage to conduct herself in such a secretive fashion,” said spokesperson Ian Lumley.

In a media release, An Taisce states:

“An Taisce is appalled by how the Minister and Department have conducted this matter…neither An Taisce nor any member of the public has a copy of the consent or the application to review.”

“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.”

“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 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.”

“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.”

BirdWatch Ireland has also expressed “serious concerns” over filming on the Skellig – a site specially designated under Irish and EU Law for the protection of bird species. Last year, ahead of filming scenes for Star Wars Episode VII, a helicopter flying over the island caused kittiwake chicks in nests to be swept off a ledge to their deaths.

See An Taisce’s full statement at
http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-asks-has-dahg-gone-over-to-the-dark-side

xxx

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