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Ballot box makes choppy journey to Northern Ireland's remotest polling station

Having journeyed by land and sea the ballot box has now arrived at Northern Ireland's remotest polling station on Rathlin Island.

The box was driven to Ballycastle by an official from the Electoral Office on Wednesday morning where it was collected by Rathlin's polling station manager Teresa McCurdy.

It was then transported by ferry to the small island, which is home to 140 full time residents and the only inhabited off-shore island in Northern Ireland.

Despite being just six miles off the County Antrim coast the ferry journey to Rathlin across choppy waters took 45 minutes.

The box had been due for delivery on Tuesday, but the crossing had to be cancelled because of bad weather. It will be returned to the mainland on Thursday evening for collection at Ballycastle after the island's final vote is cast.

A helicopter is on standby to collect the box from Rathlin should the weather make crossing by sea too hazardous.

"The helicopter is on standby but that would be very last resort. It would be very expensive to have to use the helicopter. I think that has only ever had to be done once," said Ms McCurdy.

A total of 99 islanders have registered to vote in the assembly election.

There was a notable absence of election posters or leaflets on the island and Ms McCurdy said just one political party visited as part of their campaign trail.

However, she said a high turnout of voters is expected.

"We had a 90% turn out for the referendum and I am expecting another high turnout this time. People here are very keen to use their vote. We worked hard to make sure we were able to keep our ballot box," she said.

In 2010 the Electoral Office had proposed removing the polling station from the offshore island. But voters on Rathlin won a campaign, led by Ms McCurdy's father Augustin McCurdy, to keep their only ballot box.

They had argued that the alternatives, which included travelling by ferry to a polling booth in Ballycastle, were undemocratic.

"The islanders weren't happy. Dad was at the forefront of the campaign to keep the box. It is very important that people come out to vote and that is the reason dad was very keen to retain the polling station.

"Voter turnout has always been high on Rathlin so it is very important that we have a box. I have been collecting it from Ballycastle and bringing it to the island for 20 years," said Ms McCurdy.

The ballot box on Rathlin Island is one of over 600 voting locations across Northern Ireland.

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