Lotto syndicate wins appeal over sharing £1.57m prize


FOUR MEMBERS of a winning Lotto syndicate have succeeded in their Supreme Court appeal against an order that another man is entitled to a one-fifth share of their £1.57 million prize.

The decision means Martin Horan, Carragown, Bohola, Castlebar, Co Mayo, is not entitled to a one-fifth share of the winning Lotto draw which was held on January 6th, 2001, when the jackpot was £1,577,578.

Mr Horan was also ordered to pay the legal costs of the case, which could be as much as €500,000. Mr Horan said nothing as he left the court by a side entrance to avoid the media.

His solicitor, Evan O'Dwyer, also declined to comment. "This is a day for the victor," Mr O'Dwyer stated.

The winners, meanwhile, left the Four Courts smiling. They said they were "delighted" and "glad it's all over".

Mr Horan brought his High Court proceedings alleging he was excluded from the winning syndicate by four members of it - Frank O'Reilly, a publican, O'Reilly's pub, Ballyvary, Castlebar; Mayo, Michael McHale, a farmer, Curranee, Ballyvary; John Joyce, a taxi driver, Keelogue, Ballyvary, and Séamus O'Brien also a taxi driver, Ballyvary.

In December 2004, the High Court ruled Mr Horan was entitled to a one-fifth share based on an oral agreement entered into in early 1999 by the five.

The High Court also found that Mr O'Brien, the organiser of the syndicate, had "carried" the arrears that had built up from Mr Horan until October 2000.

Under the agreement each syndicate member was to contribute £3 weekly which meant £7.50 would be invested in each of the twice-a-week draws. In their appeal, the four had argued that Mr Horan was removed from the syndicate in October 2000, months before the win, because he was in arrears and had also allegedly told the syndicate organiser, Mr O'Brien, to "f*** off" when approached in a bar asking him to pay arrears.

Mr Horan had denied he had made such comments to Mr O'Brien, claimed he had always paid in lump sums in arrears and had never been removed from the syndicate.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly, giving the decision of the three-judge court, said it did not seem there was any doubt, under the original agreement, that each member was to pay his contribution twice weekly to the organiser Mr O'Brien. It was not part of the agreement that individual members could pay in arrears and still remain a member, the judge said.

If that was so, Mr O'Brien would have to have paid for the tickets for all members out of his own pocket.

Mr O'Brien, as organiser, was not under any legal obligation to Mr Horan to continue to purchase tickets for him.

The fact only £6 was invested in the winning draw, rather than £7.50, which would have been required had Mr Horan been in it, strongly indicated Mr O'Brien bought tickets for four and not five members of the syndicate, the judge said.

Mr Justice Hugh Geoghegan and Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan agreed.