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Liam McBurney/PA Wire
irealand vote - Liam McBurney - PA Wire.jpg
Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Holy water at polling station as Ireland heads to the polls

by Press Association

Ten voters made up a 33 per cent turnout at one of Ireland's most remote polling stations.

Largely uninhabited Gola island lies two kilometres off the north-west coast and is battered by the Atlantic.

Garda Tom McBride helped presiding officer Nancy Sharkey carry the ballot box from a boat, off the pier and into a waiting car.

A statue of the Virgin Mary greeted the visitors off the cruise ferry, called The Cricket.

Catholic holy water from the Knock Shrine in the west of Ireland was wedged beside the door of the impromptu polling station, a cottage with a coal fire and copious amounts of tea.

Eddie Joe McGee, 65, was born, reared and went to school on Gola.

He lives in retirement a short distance from the whitewashed cottage which doubled as a General Election polling booth on Friday.

Mr McGee said: "I would like to see them putting more money into small islands.

"A lot of tourism comes to the island all summer.

"We have summer camps here, we have students coming from all over the world to visit the island and it would be nice to have the infrastructure to suit them.

"Money seems to be hard to get from Europe or anywhere else and I would like to see it being used wisely rather than wasted on different projects."

He left the island to go to technical college in 1966 or 1967, and spent much of his career working on houses.

He is a champion of one of Ireland's most remote areas, which comes to life with tourists in the summer.

Mr McGee said: "There is a lot more work to be done, the roads are really in a bad state, there needs to be a lot of investment in the roads."

Gola has been largely uninhabited since the 1960s.

Evidence of the island's heritage remains in the form of the abandoned stone cottages of families who have long since moved to the mainland.

The polling station was high on a hill overlooking the coastline and battered by high winds.

Mt Errigal formed an imposing backdrop.

In the foreground, white-topped waves whipped by the strong winds lashed the beaches on this island of 30.

Charlie Sweeney travelled from the mainland to vote.

He is unemployed and said the new intake of public representatives face difficult problems.

"On the mainland things have gone downhill a lot," he said.

"Where we are on the map it is very hard to say who could come in.

"Something has to happen, we have lost banks, post offices, cinemas, there is no nightclub for the young people - things are not great."

Meanwhile, Catholic nuns voted early Saturday near the Knock Shrine in Co Mayo.

Knock was once a small village in the rural west of Ireland.

Villagers said they had seen an apparition on the gable wall of a Catholic church 140 years ago.

It was designated a holy shrine, transformed into a place of pilgrimage visited by one and a half million people a year and hosted two papal visits.

A Carmelite Monastery nearby hosts an order of nuns, some of whom visited the polling station at Knock National School on Saturday morning.


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