As It Happens

Lottery winners on tiny Irish island claim prize, but no one's saying who they are

We put in another call to the now-famous Mary Murphy who sold a winning lottery ticket on Ireland's Bere Island. The prize has now been claimed, but she still won't tell us any details about who won.
Former Liverpool players Ray Houghton (left) and Ronnie Whelan (right) visited Bere Island postmistress Mary Murphy at her post office after she refused an interview with The Sun. (Joanna Riddell)

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Residents of Bere Island have been anxiously waiting for someone to claim a €500,000 ($735,835) EuroMillions lottery ticket. Now, a group of islanders are a lot richer. 

The Independent has confirmed that "a small syndicate of islanders" who have lived on the island their whole lives are the winners of the lottery. Although they wish to remain anonymous, the winners are planning a party to celebrate with the whole island. 

That means that Mary Murphy, who has run the post office for decades and sold the winning ticket to one of the 200 islanders, isn't off the hook yet. Since the winners have chosen to remain anonymous, she still has to keep her secret. 

Last week, Murphy told As It Happens host Carol Off that despite persistent questions from friends, family and the media, she refused to spill anything about which island resident may have bought the winning ticket. 

"They're speculating about who was here and who wasn't and they told me they could check my CCTV. I said, 'Nobody is doing anything,' I said, 'Forget it,' I said."

Murphy spoke to Off again today about her secret, the winners and why two former Liverpool players came to visit her at the post office. Here is part of their conversation. 

You do know, don't you, Mary?

I'm not saying anything.  

But the island is crawling with media…

It is? (giggles)

Yeah and they know that the people are local. That the people who won this lottery are living, are long time residents, on Bere island.

Yup, yeah. So, look, we'll go with that. But I can't say. I'm not saying that. You know? You're hearing it from other people, but not from me. I can't confirm anything 'cuz this is part of my job.

Bere Island boasts a population of around 200 islanders. (Helen Riddell )

There's only 200 people on Bere island. How can you keep this a secret?

Well, that's part of what I have to do. And people know and trust me. If I'm told not to say anything, I won't.

OK, but you do know, don't you?

Now, I didn't say that. No, no. You're putting words in my mouth.

OK, but everybody else knows right?

I'm not saying anything, no, please.

I've had the most wonderful time here today now because out of all that, all the media ringing me. Last Saturday, I got a phone call from The Sun newspaper and I am a Liverpool fan and we don't talk to The Sun after the Hillsborough disaster ... When the lady rang me from The Sun, I told her I was a Liverpool fan and I couldn't talk to her. So, you won't believe it, tonight, I was due to go out to the... Beara Coast Hotel to meet Ronnie Whelan and Ray Houghton, two legendary Irish and Liverpool players. My heroes.

You met them?

And guess what. They came in to see me instead.

They came to the post office?

They walked in the door here about quarter to four, four o'clock. I got the shock of my life. Can you believe it? They came in to see me here.

It's just extraordinary.

It's extraordinary. And I was joking, you know, I was joking to people. I said, you know, they said, "You did not say that to The Sun." I said, "I did." I said, "I want to go see Liverpool play." I said, "I'd never again get in to see a match."

I've had the most wonderful week here. I'll never have anything like it again in my life.

Mary, did they come in to see you because you had sold the winning ticket?

Yeah. And also because they, well, they heard I was a Liverpool fan and that I wouldn't speak to The Sun, you see.

I bought a ticket for each of them, a lottery ticket. And they said, "Rub it now!" They said, "Put your magic rub on it," they said to me.

You told The Independent newspaper, you said you're getting calls from everywhere in the world, including from a Canadian radio station.

I did. I mentioned you, I did! I hope you didn't mind.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Mary Murphy.