‘The good she did should be remembered’: Lottery winner Margaret Loughrey has died

Euromillions winner gave money to family, friends, charities and many organisations

A local councillor and friend of Euromillions lottery winner Margaret Loughrey has said her legacy should be the help she gave to friends, family and local charities.

"The good work she did, that's what people should remember," said Independent councillor Paul Gallagher.

Ms Loughrey, from Strabane, Co Tyrone, became one of Ireland's biggest ever lottery winners in 2013 when she scooped a jackpot of almost £27 million in 2013.

Mr Gallagher said she had given money to family, friends and neighbours and had also donated to local charities.


“I knew her before she won the money, she was quiet, and after she won the money she was still quiet, and she made donations that people will never know about,” said Mr Gallagher.

“Margaret wasn’t standing out front saying, ‘look at me, look how great I am, giving out a cheque’, she just did it, very quietly and behind the scenes.

“One community group was very badly down and needed funding and she sorted them out with funding, which allowed them to secure their activities and they’re still running now, but nobody knows about it,” he said.

Ms Loughrey was found dead at her home on Thursday. Police said they had received a report of the sudden death of a woman in the Ballycolman Lane area of the town.

“A postmortem is due to take place but at this stage, the death is not being treated as suspicious,” police said.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, when she won the lottery Ms Loughrey had been living on benefits worth £58 per week and had been printing off application forms at her local job centre when she stopped off and bought the lucky dip tickets.

Overnight the 48-year-old became a multi-millionnaire. She told the BBC she intended to share the money with friends and family, saying “I’ll think it all through and do the right thing, see to the right people.

“It’s in my name at the minute, it’s £27 million, it’s not going to be mine, it’s going to be spread around.

“No point having £27 million and being lonely. That can’t make me happy, that can only make me happy that everybody else’s happy and so far everybody is absolutely delighted.”

However Mr Gallagher said winning the money had thrust her into the spotlight and given her “a lot of exposure, good and bad”.

“People think you’d be top of the world with those millions of pounds, but it’s not a good place to be,” he said.

“To be on benefits, living below the poverty line, and then to suddenly wake up with those millions of pounds, the power that that brings, if you don’t know how to deal with that, it’s not a good thing.”

Within months of her win Ms Loughrey was sectioned for a time under the Mental Health Act.

She bought property in Strabane, including the derelict Herdman's Mill – a former linen mill – in Sion Mills, Co Tyrone for £1 million but hopes for its regeneration fell through, and she became embroiled in rows with the local cricket club over their use of the site.

In 2015 she was ordered to do 150 hours community service after she assaulted a taxi driver while intoxicated, and in 2018 her former personal assistant, Patrick Breslin, sued her for unfair dismissal and was awarded £30,000 after an industrial tribunal found she had discriminated against and mocked his religious beliefs.

In an interview with the Sunday Life in 2019 she said her lottery win had “sent her to hell and back”.

The money, she said, “has brought me nothing but grief” and “has destroyed my life.”

The SDLP Assembly member and former minister for the environment Mark H Durkan, who met Ms Loughrey to discuss her plans for Herdman's Mills, told the Irish News that lottery organisers should provide greater support for vulnerable winners.

“It is clear from her public life that she was vulnerable and that other vulnerable people have been exposed to great change after winning huge amounts on lotteries.

"I believe the National Lottery and other lottery operators should examine ways of providing longer term welfare care to vulnerable people after winning large amounts and not just financial advice," he said.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times