Northern Ireland news

Lotto winner who has given away half of £115m winnings says helping is addictive

Lottery winner Frances Connolly has given away more than half of her £115m fortune said she is addicted to giving to others. Picture by Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Tom Wilkinson, PA

A CO Tyrone lottery winner who has given away more than half of her £115 million fortune said she is addicted to giving to others.

Frances Connolly, who is originally from Glebe, revealed she has already busted the charity budget she agreed for this year with husband Paddy - and has given away what they would have donated up to 2032.

The 55-year-old former social worker and teacher has set up two charitable foundations, one named after her late mother Kathleen Graham in their native Northern Ireland, and the PFC Trust in Hartlepool, where the couple have lived for 30 years.

On Saturday, a gala fundraiser, which she organised with 250 guests, made more than £100,000 for the PFC Trust, which supports local young carers, the elderly and refugees.

The Connollys won on the EuroMillions in 2019 and immediately gave away large chunks of cash to friends and family, using a list she prepared in advance of the win - which she always believed would happen.

She estimates she has given away £60m, including to charity, but does not keep a tally, joking she would be worried in case her 57-year-old husband, who is originally from Belfast, saw it.

She said helping others, whether with money or by volunteering her time, lifted people's spirits during lockdown.

"It gives you a buzz and it's addictive," she said.

"I'm addicted to it now."

Mrs Connolly has always been motivated to help others, volunteering for the St John Ambulance from age nine and setting up an Aids helpline when she was a student in Belfast.

The couple are not extravagant with their wealth and their biggest expenditure after their win was a six-bedroom house in Co Durham with seven acres of land, while Mr Connolly drives a second-hand Aston Martin.

Mr Connolly still runs plastic businesses, while Mrs Connolly devotes her time to the trusts, which have backed community groups to help people get into work, buy electronic tablets for the elderly so they can connect with their families, and supported refugees.

Young carers are particularly close to her heart and the trust and personal donations have bought two caravans so they can go on respite breaks.

Asked why she was happy to give so much away, she said: "Oh, who needs all that money?

"Why wouldn't you? I've done that all my life.

"I'm not being funny, I'd have been a millionaire anyway if I took back all the money I've given away over the years.

"People do ask, 'How did you cope with that amount of money?'

"I said, 'I never did. It wasn't in the bank two days'."

Mrs Connolly agreed to stop giving away large amounts, but has already donated 2022's agreed budget - and for a decade beyond.

"This was just in January...we do a budget every year, we check what we're spending.

"We're (already) on 2032's budget. We might have to revise that."

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