Actor and broadcaster Joe Taylor was on the Marian Finucane Show last Saturday talking about his most memorable radio and television moments.
Here’s an edited account of what he had to say about the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes.
The Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes was set up in the 1930s with the intention of providing Irish hospitals with funds to develop proper facilities. The whole set up was very impressive and was operated under the watchful eye of the Garda Commissioner
When I discovered actually what was taking place behind the scenes at the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes I thought ‘oh my god, were we ever suckered into a feeling of delusion.
It was Mark Twain who said you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. The sweeps fooled all of the people for practically all of the time – for 57 years.
If a quarter of the money that was raised through the sale of tickets illegally in America and Canada, because gambling was banned in both these countries, Prof Drumm and Mary Harney would be carried around the country today for having the best hospital service in the entire world.
But the money sort of disappeared; it was taken up in administration and so on. At one stage the mafia in the late 30s tried to muscle in on the Sweepstakes in America and the Sweeps sent over a couple of IRA men and also they had the ear of American cops and so the Mafia backed down and there was no more interference.
Then in 1947 the Mexican government decided they would try to sell tickets into America. The Mexicans were delighted when the Irish offered to supply them with consultants to help them but soon realised that they were being ripped off when all the money started to go back to Ireland.
So, let’s just review the main points.
1930s Ireland and the health services were of a Third World standard. A scheme to generate funds was set up by the Government and overseen by the number one policeman in the country. The scheme was corrupt from day one and everybody in power knew about it but did nothing.
When another corrupt organisation tried to take some of the action they were threatened with violence. When another country tried to set up the same scam they were ripped off by the Irish.
Very little money was actually spent on health services so Irish citizens continued to suffer and die needlessly because of greed and corruption.
Ireland still has a Third World health service; people are still suffering and dying because of incompetence and corruption and practically all of the people are still allowing themselves to be fooled.
So, what’s new?