JOHN GILLIGAN was lovingly embraced by family members and friends who hosted a drink-fuelled welcome home in honour of Ireland's most notorious criminal.
Confetti littered the driveway of the house in Clondalkin, Dublin – home to Gilligan's brother Thomas – which was thronged with family, friends and well-wishers from mid-morning as news filtered through that Gilligan was a free man.
Bunting and balloons, emblazoned with the words 'Welcome Back' festooned the doorway at the two-storey terraced home.
Outside the house, journalists and photographers waited for the gangster's latest attention-grabbing antic.
Through his solicitor, he had previously advised the media he "wouldn't talk for €1m".
But this vow was quickly consigned to the scrapheap as he lapped up his newfound status as a free man.
"I don't think he's going to come out, he's in there having a gargle," reporters were told by one family member before the man himself rolled up to the door grinning ear-to-ear.
"Good luck to you and thanks very much. Thanks for all the damage you done on me," he said.
"Thanks very much and God bless to you," he said, before adding: "You shouldn't be writing about innocent people."
He posed for photographs at the doorstep – an act of defiance and celebration now that his 17- year stay in maximum security was over.
His brother Thomas pointed to a battered red motorcycle parked up against the wall outside the home.
"Make sure you get a picture of that. I'm trying to sell that and get a few bob for it. I've no licence," Thomas instructed.
Earlier, Gilligan repeatedly told reporters he had no involvement in the murder of the 'Sunday Independent' journalist Veronica Guerin, insisting he was "an innocent man".
"I'm delighted. I'm innocent of everything," he said.
"I'm not going to move away. Why would I move away? It's grand, I'm totally happy.
"I had nothing to do with her (Veronica Guerin's) murder.
"That girl, Lord rest her, never wrote one word about me. I didn't (assault her). People said I admitted it but I did no such thing."
He denied ever threatening Ms Guerin and said the courts had failed to produce phone records to prove allegations that he said he would attack her and her children, though he admitted she did call to his home at Jessbrook.
"I didn't duck and dive. I could have come out of prison and hid.
"I'm not hiding from anybody," he said.
When asked what he was going to do now that he was free, he turned on his heel before uttering: "I'm going back into the house to have another beer."
Commentators on Dublin's underworld say Gilligan has been released into a transformed criminal landscape where new players now have a firm hold on his once vast empire.
There was little sign of that in Clondalkin yesterday as Gilligan was lovingly embraced by his people, many of whom screamed abuse and branded reporters and photographers "scumbags" and pelted some with eggs.
"There's only one John Gilligan," a car full of teenage girls cheered enthusiastically as they drove past.