Frank Flannery, the head of Rehab and a senior Fine Gael advisor, had lobbied the Government intensely to allow his organisation to operate the proposed new national lottery.
In a joint proposal on behalf of Rehab and the Central Remedial Clinic, Mr Flannery said the lottery was capable of generating a turnover of not less than IR£1m per week, with annual revenue quickly rising to IR£100m and to IR250m after five years. Such turnover would generate annual income for the Government of IR£30m per annum, rising eventually to IR£75m.
Mr Flannery argued that it would be inappropriate to contract the operation of the lottery to a commercial organisation because of the huge amounts of money involved. He said it would be equally inappropriate to set up another semi-State body to run it.
A memo drafted by an unknown official for Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, about the merits of the various parties wanting to operate the lottery, displayed a strong bias in favour of a joint bid by Rehab and the CRC. It stated that excluding Rehab from the lottery would “slam the door in the face” of it developing a service of sheltered employment for people with disabilities.
The author said the public sector was not the only sector which could be relied upon to perform major tasks, protect the public interest and guarantee public confidence. “This is a fallacious assumption,” the author added.
The official said that
An Post had no experience of running lotteries, while the vast majority of its offices were not suitable outlets for tickets. In addition, it would be “at the mercy of some of Ireland’s most powerful unions”.
“There is, moreover, a serious question as to the social advisability of selling lottery tickets in the same premises as handing out children’s allowances,” the author added. The Taoiseach was informed that the Rehab/CRC proposal offered a simple, safe, way of getting a lottery up and running in the shortest possible time.
As a final factor in favour of the charities’ bid, the official said it would probably also receive the support of Fianna Fáil.
The Union of Voluntary Organisations (UVOH), which represented around 40 charities, including the Irish Cancer Society and the Society of St Vincent de Paul, warned the Taoiseach serious damage would be caused to their fundraising if a major portion of lottery income was not allocated to them.
UVOH secretary Desmond Kenny said it seemed grossly unfair that a national lottery could be introduced which would “overnight destroy” one of their principal fundraising elements.
“It is unintelligible to us how the State could take the traditional fundraising mechanism of our organisations and destroy their value to these organisations in order to fund sport and the arts,” said Mr Kenny.
In a letter to Mr FitzGerald in May 1985, Mr Kenny said there was “a gross inequity” in what was being proposed.
The UVOH urged the Taoiseach to consider reserving a major portion of income from the new lottery to support voluntary organisations for the handicapped.
There were also debates within the Cabinet with Minister for Labour Ruairí Quinn expressing concern to Minister for Finance Alan Dukes about the lack of consideration about the impact the National Lottery would have on the viability of the Sweepstakes.
Mr Quinn said he had no doubt any announcement about the appointment of Lottery agents would precipitate the liquidation of the Sweepstake’s organisers, the Hospitals Trust with the Government having to take over the responsibility for looking after its remaining staff and pensioners.
Mr Dukes selected An Post to run the new lottery on the advice of a steering committee who believed it should be operated by a State-sponsored body.
Several other bodies and consortia indicated an interest in running the lottery, including Cospoir (the Irish Sports Council), the Hospitals Trust, and Independent Newspapers. However, Mr Dukes said there could be a negative public response if the licence was awarded to a private sector commercial group which would be controlling substantial sums of public money.