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Lottery turns 30: 'Farmer who won lotto said keep it, I've enough'

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Members of a Dublin Bus lottery syndicate collect their cheque for nearly €24m in July last year

Members of a Dublin Bus lottery syndicate collect their cheque for nearly €24m in July last year

Members of a Dublin Bus lottery syndicate collect their cheque for nearly €24m in July last year

It's the place where dreams come true, and as it celebrates its 30th birthday this week, it's hardly surprising that staff at the National Lottery headquarters have seen it all, including incredible luck and bizarre twists of fate.

First set up in 1987 by the Government to raise funds for good causes in health, sport, arts, heritage, youth and the environment, every week millions of people buy a ticket hoping to get those numbers right.

However, most winners realise riches aren't the most important matter when they actually hit the jackpot, and many immediately pledge to help family and charity when they enter the winners' room at Lotto HQ on Dublin's Abbey Street.

"There was a farmer from Wicklow who won but rang in to say he had enough money and that he wasn't going to collect his winnings," said CEO Dermot Griffin.

"He was told he had 90 days to collect if he changed his mind, and he waited right up until the end of the deadline.

"He called to say he'd changed his mind, he'd collect the winnings, that he'd been thinking about it and he would use the money to help his family and charity.

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Record EuroMillions winner Dolores McNamara, who scooped €115m in 2005

Record EuroMillions winner Dolores McNamara, who scooped €115m in 2005

Record EuroMillions winner Dolores McNamara, who scooped €115m in 2005

"He was one of those people who do the lottery as a ritual, but they don't specifically want to really be millionaires.

"The vast majority of big winners do things for charity, and it's rare you'll meet anyone who doesn't want to give back.

"The winners normally help their families, they give back to their communities, they help local community hospices, nursing homes and other charities. It's heartwarming to see."

Gerry O'Donoghue, who works in the claims department at Lottery HQ, said one theme he has noticed in many winners is a belief that they'll win.

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Mayo carpenter Ger Murphy and family won €6.4m in 2015

Mayo carpenter Ger Murphy and family won €6.4m in 2015

Mayo carpenter Ger Murphy and family won €6.4m in 2015

"We had a husband and wife who were out shopping and they were both off doing their own tasks," he said.

"One was in one shop and the other in another store. They both decided to put a Lottery ticket on with the numbers they used, but neither told the other they'd put a ticket on. By the end of that day they were both millionaires.

"Another winner said their numbers hadn't been read properly by the machine and a line was repeated twice. They won twice.

Happiest

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Lotto claims manager Gerry O’Donoghue and CEO Dermot Griffin. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Lotto claims manager Gerry O’Donoghue and CEO Dermot Griffin. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Lotto claims manager Gerry O’Donoghue and CEO Dermot Griffin. Photo: Caroline Quinn

"We've had winners coming in here multiple times. Some tell us they'll be back and they are."

Mr Griffin said that although Lotto staff aren't allowed to play themselves, the job itself is comparable to a win of sorts.

"A huge amount goes into the lottery before every game that the public don't see, but there's just no other job like this," he said. "I'm lucky because I get to meet people in the happiest moment of their lives. That's very special.

"I've seen millionaires come in who worry they have to go to pick up their children from creche, and I realise all they have to do now is call the creche and ask them to mind the children a while longer, as they can afford to.

"There was another millionaire who called to ask which was the best bus to get here.

"I think Irish people go back to their normal lives. They think about their families, their communities, pay off their mortgage and buy their kids homes and make sure their kids and grandchildren are financially secure."

Ronan Cooney, who works in the claims section, said: "We have people who come into the winners' room and tell us all about their lives, how they feel.

"They say they're so glad to be able to talk to someone as they can't tell anyone they've won.

"Some come in here who've not slept for a couple of days. Some say they can't spend too much locally as they don't want people to know they've won."

Some are so concerned with their new status as millionaires that they don't even want to hand over their ticket to be checked by Lotto staff.

More than 800 prizes of more than €1m have been paid out in the last 30 years and €5bn has been raised for good causes.


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