Dominicans find force isn’t with them as OPW strikes back

Dominicans find force isn’t with them as OPW strikes back Skellig Michael, looking from the west towards Seal Cove. Photo: Peter Cox.

Irish Dominican friars had a request for permission to film at Skellig Michael refused by the Office of Public Works (OPW). The Order is currently filming  a series of videos for their YouTube channel to tell the story of Irish religious/historical places from the religious viewpoint.

Fr Conor McDonough OP wrote on X  on June 27, “No permission from OPW to film on Skellig Michael.  Such a shame.  I’d been really looking forward to it from the start of our series.”  Fr Conor said that these videos are “a case of the Church telling her own story”.

The island has been a religious place for centuries and many martyrs have died there; in the year 823 Norse pirates raided the Skelligs and wiped out the whole community.

Controversially, the American production company Lucasfilm received permission to film scenes for both Star Wars films The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi which involve bringing large film crews to the island.

Martina Purdy, a journalist and pilgrim guide for St Patrick’s Way in Co. Down said that “Skellig Michael was opened up for Star Wars which has really nothing to do with its authentic original meaning. These sites are sacred and they are actually famous for a reason – they were made famous by the religious.

“We should be able to reclaim the high places our Faith. To turn the Dominicans away is just really ridiculous and I find it hard to believe that in an entire summer schedule they can’t find some time for the Dominicans to go there, but of course it doesn’t suit the new religion of the State.”

Hugh MacMahon wrote is his book Voices from the Desert that “Skellig Michael itself was occupied by individual hermits during the medieval period and the Canons encouraged pilgrims to go there”.

The Diocese of Kerry’s website say that “even today with mass tourism bringing many visitors to the Skellig, there is always an element of pilgrimage about going to Skellig.” And the OPW’s Heritage Services said “the monks left the island in the thirteenth century. It became a place of pilgrimage and, during the time of the Penal Laws, a haven for Catholics.”

“I wonder if there was an application from Hollywood how it would be considered?”, Ms Purdy asked.  However, writing on X, Fr Conor has vowed not to give into hate which leads to the Dark Side and hopes that the OPW will have a cancellation on their schedule this summer.