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Malin Head feels the Star Wars force

Do Not UseDo Not Use 13/05/2016
Star Wars street art on a wall in Malin Head: Star Wars fever has gripped north Donegal, with street art appearing on a wall in Malin Head © Reuters Star Wars fever has gripped north Donegal, with street art appearing on a wall in Malin Head

As Obi-Wan Kenobi once said: "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them."

A Star Wars film set being built at Malin Head in County Donegal: Effective no-fly zones will be in place over the scenic headlands during the filming © Reuters Effective no-fly zones will be in place over the scenic headlands during the filming

The Jedi Master's words seem particularly relevant as the debate around Donegal's apparent Millennium Falcon rages on.

As cast and crew of Star Wars Episode VIII landed on Malin Head to shoot scenes for the new film, excitement reached fever pitch in the village.

"Is it, or isn't it?" was the question on everyone's lips, as a huge structure appeared on a cliff's edge.

The entire shoot is top secret, with locals and landowners sworn to keep it that way.

The space-age construction - at least 50ft (15m) across and 10ft (3m) high - is balanced precariously on cliffs a mile from Banba's Crown, a headland known for producing dramatic photographs of the Northern Lights.

It is shielded by nets, with rescue boats deployed offshore as work intensified in the hours before filming.

Access to the beauty spot will be closed over the weekend because of the eagerly awaited arrival of Hollywood actors.

To make matters even more intriguing, effective no-fly zones are being implemented by the Irish Aviation Authority over some of the Republic of Ireland's most scenic headlands to facilitate the filming.

Word of the arrivals spread fast and, over the past few days, crowds of Star Wars enthusiasts have been arriving for a glimpse of the set.

John Joe McGettigan, from Carrigart in County Donegal, has been exploring the set in full Stormtrooper regalia, introducing himself with his rank in the Emerald Garrison of EG 1826.

"It's absolutely fantastic to have Star Wars in Donegal, it's not a galaxy far, far away at all," he said.

"Everybody has their own way of going mad, this is ours."

Not even the father-of-two's fanatical devotion to the films could get him closer than a mile to the supposed set of Han Solo's spaceship.

"The shoot is top secret and I'd say the only way of getting into the set is on the Millennium Falcon itself," he said.

Hugh Farren, the owner of Farren's Bar in Malin Head, marked the excitement with a mural of Yoda on the gable wall of the bar.

He said there have been carloads of tourists stopping to take pictures of it.

"I was going to stock up this morning and a young fella with a lightsabre was talking a photo of himself against it - it's been a real hit."

Hugh said the level of traffic in the village has not been seen since the Northern Lights brought busloads of tourists to the area.

"At the moment we've got about 30 lorries going back and forth.

"Locals are saying now we should have a one-way system - it's that busy.

"If it's true what they're saying, it's looking like they may come back and it's just fantastic.

"The thought of stormtroopers shooting at each other around Malin Head is just out of this world."

Hugh and others in the village are hopeful that local authorities will make the most of the potential to draw tourism and investment to the area.

"It's a missed opportunity if we don't do something to say this is where Star Wars was filmed."

Hugh's brother Allie Farren, a campaigner for the tourist centre at Malin Head, said the spin-offs will be huge for the remote area.

"It will help put Malin Head once again on the map," he said.

"This will be bigger than the likes of Game of Thrones like we've seen in the north attracting loads of tourists.

"Hopefully this will really benefit the area.

"Everybody in this location is tied into the secrecy.

"It's been a great talking point - Star Wars is one of the biggest movies of all time and for them to be in Malin Head is top class."

"It's a great occasion to shout from the rooftops how good an this area is," he said.

Security is tight in Donegal, with only one country road leading to the location and access for eager fans closely guarded by teams of security.

Donegal County Council is overseeing road closures on the Malin Head loop from 08:00 local time each morning until 21:00 at night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Irish journalist Ciaran Byrne is reporting on the filming for Time Magazine.

"Whatever is going on is obviously top-secret, but they've obviously been very taken with Ireland which is great," he said.

"Anything associated with Star Wars tends to turn to gold.

"It's a phenomenal global success that makes millions, if not billions at the box office, so the fact that it's come here is big news."

The film will shoot in Malin Head before returning to the southern tip, close to where scenes for Star Wars: The Force Awakens were shot on Skellig Michael's monastic hermitage in the Atlantic.

Jedi Temple sets have been constructed on a mountain headland, Ceann Sibeal in County Kerry, with the filming expected to take place later this month.

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