Tuesday 28 February 2017

Irish Sweepstake scandal remains a lesson to us all

Stephen Dodd

THE year is 1930, and on the flickering black-and-white screen two blind boys are reaching into a giant metal drum to pull tickets from the deluge of entries in the inaugural Irish Sweepstakes. Around their necks, on large unwieldy placards, are their names - "Peter" and "Willie". The boys, students at St Joseph's School in Drumcondra, have been selected for a single purpose.

THE year is 1930, and on the flickering black-and-white screen two blind boys are reaching into a giant metal drum to pull tickets from the deluge of entries in the inaugural Irish Sweepstakes. Around their necks, on large unwieldy placards, are their names - "Peter" and "Willie". The boys, students at St Joseph's School in Drumcondra, have been selected for a single purpose. Blind, grasping for tickets they cannot see, they are demonstrably unable to cheat.

Today, to a more enlightened audience, the image is naive, and the cynicism and exploitation behind it almost unimaginable. The Irish Sweeps, touted around the world as a charity launched to help a nascent health care system, has long been exposed as one of the country's greatest scandals. Of the millions that poured in, it has been estimated that less than one tenth went to hospitals. The remainder turned rich men into multimillionaires, and created law enforcement problems on both sides of the Atlantic.

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