“There is one particular popular T-shirt. Luke Skywalker with a pint of Guinness and a puffin.”

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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The FORCE is most definitely with The Kingdom.

Of course, if your surname is Healy Rae, that will come as absolutely no news. But for those of you doubters out there, it looks like all that talk of a potential Star Wars tourism boost to County Kerry has actually come to fruition.

On the Today programme with Keelin Shanley, reporter Brian O’Connell paid a visit to the area and found a booming industry in post-Star Wars tourism, memorabilia and – inevitably – gloriously tacky kitsch!

“Kerry people capitalise on tourism opportunity. SHOCKER! .. In Portmagee, for example, you can buy a “MAY THE CRAIC BE WITH YOU” T-shirt.”

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That wonderfully eccentric spirit of enterprise has even extended (wait for it) to the “Luke Skywalker pump”, where you can pull a pint from the very same pump lever on which Mark Hamill, the original Luke Skywalker, laid his swashbuckling paws.

“In the Bridge bar, they’ve set up a stand-alone tap of Guinness in front of a large landscape photo of Skellig. You can pull a pint there. Just like the actor, Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, did when he was there.

Readers will recall how Mark Hamill described the Kerry coastal location as “just indescribably beautiful”. We trust he will view their entrepreneurial spirit in the same way!

One morning here there was an archaeologist, trying to get on. He wanted to go for the archaeology, to see the beehive huts on the Skellig. Two young fellas passed down light-Sabres into the boat. He wasn’t too happy with that!

Although experiencing a significant uplift from visitors keen to immerse themselves in the magic of Skellig Michael, as director JJ Abrams has articulated in interviews worldwide, many are disappointed that they cannot experience the rock directly. As a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, tourist numbers are strictly controlled, and boat trips only accommodate 12 visitors at a time.

“We would have liked it… but all the Star Wars fans are booking it out, like, six or nine months in advance! It’s crazy!”

To hear the report in full, click here

© The Listener 2016

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