Irish EuroMillions winner causes fury as he continues to claim disability allowance
AN Irish €12 m lottery winner has become a figure of disdain in the UK after continuing to claim benefits, but his neighbours in Kerry insist he is 'beyond decent'.
But the Irishman who has continued to claim disability benefit was hailed in his home village yesterday as "beyond decent".
Michael O'Shea (73) won the equivalent of €12.25m in the EuroMillions lottery in October 2005.
Despite being a multimillionaire, Mr O'Shea has continued to claim £500 per month (€600) in disability allowance from the British government as well as generous car allowances.
He also continues to live in his modest three-bedroom ex-council house in Sneinton, Nottingham, with his wife Jean.
Mr O'Shea, who is a native of Lixnaw, Co Kerry, also owns an impressive residence in Ballinclogher, outside the village near where he grew up, and still has family in the area.
Mr O'Shea's family declined to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent yesterday.
However, local opinion was firmly behind Mr O'Shea, who is a regular visitor home, and people believe he's only getting what he's entitled to.
"He is beyond decent and his wealth didn't change him one bit," his neighbour, Cyril Deenihan, said.
The O'Sheas were a talking point in the village over the weekend when several British newspapers carried the story that he had claimed almost €38,000 in benefits since his luck came in more than six years ago.
The retired builder is not doing anything illegal, as the benefits he receives are not means-tested in the UK.
However, his actions have been condemned by some who question the morality of accepting benefits he doesn't need at the expense of the British taxpayer. Mr O'Shea claimed he was only getting what he was entitled to, having spent 40 years working as a builder in the UK. And his neighbours in Co Kerry couldn't agree more.
"Everyone here thinks he did the right thing and he's entitled to that money and it's up to him what he does with it," said one local who didn't wish to be named.
"There's nothing wrong with what he did and he was dead right," said another.
Mr O'Shea emigrated to England when he was a young man but spends most of his summers in Co Kerry.
He bought the site for his house, 'Schoolfield House', following his win and also bought the site across the road that used to house Ballinclogher National School.
The retired builder has insisted the disability and car allowances are only what he's due. "I worked for 40 years and I'm entitled to it. I've got osteoarthritis in my legs, and rheumatoid arthritis in my hands," he said. Mr O'Shea also told British media he gives away "10 times what he receives" to good causes.
However, his continuing to claim benefits has come in for criticism from MPs and some of his British neighbours as well as the taxpaying public.
The TaxPayers' Alliance, a UK campaigning organisation, is calling for the system for claiming disability payments to be re-examined. A spokesperson said: "Most taxpayers will think it's unfair if someone who is a millionaire and clearly doesn't need it is claiming benefits.
"It's wrong to view any benefit as some kind of a tax rebate because you paid into the system while you were working.
"This benefit is a safety net for people who have fallen on hard times or become ill and need extra support."