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Limerick lottery winner goes to ground

Woman richer than Roy Keane and Colin Farrell with 77m pot

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Monday August 1, 2005

It is the unluckiest city in Ireland. While everywhere else was riding the economic boom, poor old Limerick, dubbed "stab city" by a local judge, was best known for drugs, guns and murderous gangland family feuds. Then Frank McCourt came along with his memoir Angela's Ashes, for ever associating the place with consumptive children sent hungry to bed dreaming of a crust of bread.

But Limerick's luck changed at the weekend when a factory worker who escaped last month's bombing in the Turkish resort of Kusadasi won 77m in Europe's biggest lottery payout.

Dolores McNamara, a 45-year-old mother of six and grandmother, was instantly propelled to No 70 on Ireland's rich list, overtaking the Cork-born Manchester United star Roy Keane and the Dublin's latest Hollywood export, Colin Farrell.

On Friday night Mrs McNamara was on the way to her local pub, the Track, when she stopped to buy a 2 (1.40) EuroMillions ticket hours before the draw. Despite the lottery being played across Europe, the jackpot had not been won since May and had rolled over nine times.

Mrs McNamara's native suburb of Garryowen is the only working-class area of Ireland dominated by rugby and gave its name to the "up and under" kick. The actor Richard Harris was born nearby. But the nearest thing to a lucky break drinkers in the Track had known was the odd successful bet on the greyhounds at the dog track across the road.

When the barman switched on the TV to watch the lottery draw and all seven of Mrs McNamara's numbers came up, everyone thought it was a joke. She is short-sighted, so she had to ask others to take a closer look at the ticket.

Her friend Jackie Greer said: "I was sitting down with Dolores and the next thing someone shouts she's after winning 112m. We thought it was just a bit of fun. I phoned my son and said check the numbers on the Teletext for me and there they were."

Mr Greer's wife, Pauline, said: "Dolores is so quiet and so reserved. She's a lovely girl. She was shaking like a leaf."

The bar manager, Christine McNamara (no relation), said the sudden multimillionaire had begun "screaming and roaring" and burst into tears.

After a stiff brandy, Mrs McNamara, who had just left her job on the production line at a pharmaceutical plant, went to the local police station and asked officers to look after the ticket. They rang her bank manager who drove round to collect it and locked it in the bank's vault. Satisfied the ticket was safe, Mrs McNamara went back to the pub to drink champagne until 3am.

Later on Saturday morning she was seen by neighbours leaving her terraced bungalow for a fried breakfast to ease her hangover. She said she had not slept a wink. But neither Mrs McNamara nor her husband, Adrian, who recently had a triple heart bypass, has been seen since.

In hiding from the press, the couple left their car in their driveway. It is unclear if they have gone to a hotel or left the country. They own a holiday home in Kusadasi.

Today is a bank holiday in Ireland so Mrs McNamara cannot claim her winnings until tomorrow.

The couple have three daughters - Dawn, 28, Kim, 22, and Kevan 20 - and three sons - Gary, 26, Dean, 15, and Lee, 13. Dean, who turned 15 on the day of the draw, told reporters he could not decide what to ask for his birthday. But he still wanted to train to be a bricklayer like his father. "I don't want to sit at home and get fat," he said.

Mrs McNamara's friend Geraldine Donohoe said: "She is a lovely person. She married and she raised a lovely family. That's all I can say. She more than deserved what she got."

Willie O'Dea, Ireland's defence minister and a member of the Irish parliament for Limerick who holds a surgery at the Track pub, said: "The people of Limerick are delighted for her, it's a great win and very deserved."

 

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005