State papers 1985: GAA lottery plan causes consternation

Central Remedial Clinic proposes to run National Lottery on behalf of Government

Newspaper reports that the GAA in Cork intended to promote a lottery scheme caused consternation in 1963 and prompted the then minister for justice Charles Haughey to contact An Garda Sí


A file released by the National Archives contained a copy of the Sunday Press's Fear Ciúin GAA column from January 6th, 1963, which strongly criticised the reported "pools" initiative.

“The proposal as at present outlined appears to me a radical departure from Gaelic tradition. It is based on the gambling instinct – the desire of acquiring wealth easily by chance,” the column stated.


The then tánaiste Seán MacEntee was concerned about the possible consequences for the Hospital Sweepstakes and contacted Haughey about the matter on January 12th, 1963.

Interviewed by police

“I thought that the best thing to do, as a first step, was to have the people concerned interviewed by the police,” Haughey replied.

He said that the solicitor acting for both the Cork County Board of the GAA and a company that had been set up to assist the GAA to raise funds had been interviewed by gardaí.

The solicitor assured the gardaí his clients were “most anxious to keep the law”, Haughey said.

The chairman of the fundraising company, described by Haughey as a “prominent GAA personality”, was also interviewed by gardaí. “They pointed out to him the restrictions the law imposes and he assured them that it was his Company’s intention to keep within the law (or, more accurately, that his Company would do everything possible to keep within the law – which I hope means the same thing).”

Haughey said no move had been made by the company to get a licence for any lotteries but gardaí would report on any developments.

Haughey told MacEntee he agreed with him that the promotion of such pools abroad would militate against the success of the Hospital Sweepstakes and should not be allowed.

Separately, a 1985 file released under the 30-year rule contained details of the proposal to run a national lottery on behalf of the government from the Central Remedial Clinic, the Rehabilitation Institute and the Mater hospital.

Very credible

A memorandum prepared for the then taoiseach Garret FitzGerald stated that An Post was “superficially a very credible contender for the lottery franchise”.

However, “their claims do not stand up in practice”.

The memorandum advised there would be a serious question around the “social advisability” of selling lottery tickets in the same premises that the children’s allowance was handed out.

It also noted that An Post would be “at the mercy” of some of Ireland’s most powerful unions.

The unions were “currently flexing their muscles” and had in the past led a six-month strike “that would have killed a National Lottery stone dead had it been in the hands of the Post Office at that time”.

The memorandum noted that the Fianna Fáil party would support, “and possibly even welcome”, the granting of the franchise to the consortium involving the Central Remedial Clinic, the Rehabilitation Institute and the Mater hospital.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times