Unclaimed Ireland Lottery funds of €16 million (US$17.5 million) are being rapidly released to help battle coronavirus.
The money will see its way towards the frontline as the country ramps-up its response to the unprecedented spread of the lethal disease.
Paschal Donohoe has announced that the windfall from the National Lottery is coming into the government's coffers early.
This will help the Government's efforts now as the country battles to beat back the deadly virus.
The money will go directly to the health sector which is in danger of becoming overwhelmed as the virus continues to spread.
"I am pleased that the €16million of historic expired prizes has become available to support investments in health at a time of unprecedented national crisis due to COVID-19," Donohoe said.
Andrew Algeo, CEO of the Ireland National Lottery, added, "All of us at the National Lottery are delighted to see this €16 million used to improve health in our communities. PLI (Premier Lotteries Ireland) has been pleased to work together with the Regulator to make these funds available at this time.
"Thanks to our players the National Lottery raised over €250m for thousands of Good Causes in 2019 and perhaps more than ever, plays a vital role in supporting clubs, charities and great causes across the country."
Over €5.5 billion has been raised for use by good causes since the National Lottery commenced operations in 1987.
The sectoral areas funded by good causes are set out in the National Lottery Act, 2013 and include health of the community.
The funds boost was revealed at the Government's daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday morning.
Department of the Taoiseach senior official, Liz Canavan, updates the public every morning on the latest developments from the Government.
She also warned the public yesterday about the increase in nasty online frauds that are popping up during the coronavirus emergency.
More people are at home and online during the crisis and cyber-criminals are looking to take advantage of this.
Canavan is directing people to the new website, fraudsmart.ie, where there is invaluable advice on how not to be scammed.
The money was held in the National Lottery Fund, which is managed and controlled by the National Lottery Regulator and will now be transferred by the Regulator to the Exchequer.
Earlier lottery regulator Carol Boate said she had examined the issue and "concluded that there was no basis for the money to be used by the current operator".
"This agreement with the operator now means the money can be returned to the exchequer without delay for use by good causes, further ensuring that funds for this purpose are maximized at this time," she said.
Under the rules, lotto winners have 90 days to collect their prize, after which they forfeit any right to the money. After that point, the operator can then legally use the money to promote various games and draws either through jackpot top-ups or other marketing campaigns. The unclaimed prize pot has become a significant revenue stream for the operator, amounting to about 2 percent of annual sales which equates to more than €16 million a year.
The biggest unclaimed win on record was for a €4.3 million jackpot, dating back to June 30th, 2001. The ticket was sold in Coolock in Dublin, and despite a campaign to find the winner no one ever came forward. More recently, a winning ticket worth just under €3 million sold in Mayo in 2014 went unclaimed.