'Gilligan visited the house a lot and behaved like Lord Muck'
ON A Tuesday morning, October 13, 2013, John Gilligan strutted out of Portlaoise prison and into a silver Ford Mondeo car.
Seventeen years in Ireland's high-security prison had not dulled his thuggish bravado. As his car sped past the crew of media, he could be seen in the passenger seat talking into his mobile phone and laughing. Later, his brother threw a welcome home party at his house in Clondalkin in West Dublin.
Filled up with booze, Gilligan raised a glass for the cameras. "I had nothing to do with Veronica Guerin's murder," he told reporters. "My plans are to go in and have another beer. I'm delighted to be out of prison – I feel great."
His cockiness extended to the criminal underworld where he used to be top dog. Back in the Nineties, he was a feared criminal who graduated from burglaries to drugs. He bought an equestrian centre, Jessbrook, in Co Kildare.
But he emerged from 17 years behind bars to a changed criminal landscape. Gilligan was an anachronism. According to Garda sources, his cocky manner didn't rile just journalists but also his former criminal colleagues.
Despite his bravado and rumours that he had millions stashed abroad, Gilligan was 61, broke and in criminal terms a spent force.
Sources in the Criminal Assets Bureau say that extensive searches for his supposed fortune hidden offshore failed to turn up anything.
He had tried to stop the Criminal Assets Bureau from selling off his equestrian centre in Jessbrook. He was in and out of the Four Courts, consulting lawyers in the months after his release. But his most recent Supreme Court challenge failed, and the CAB was in the process of selling the property.
Gardai thought that he might move to Spain. Instead, he stayed put and, according to one source, had tried to shake down former colleagues for cash, calling in debts and favours from years ago.
Gardai passed on several warnings recently about threats to Gilligan's life.
On December 4, 2013, a man walked into the Halfway House on the Navan Road in Dublin looking for him.
Luckily for Gilligan, the would-be assassin got the wrong pub.
Last night, he was not so lucky. Gunmen approached his brother's house and opened fire, shooting him in the chest. Sources said that he was conscious and able to communicate as an emergency crew rushed him to hospital, where he remained in a critical condition.
Gilligan's relatives gathered at Blanchardstown Hospital last night as gardai and security guards stopped and questioned anyone entering the building.
According to sources close to the family, Gilligan's daughter Tracey was in a "traumatised" state after she witnessed her father being shot.
The source told the Sunday Independent: "They're all over the place, it's mental, just mental. Poor Tracey is completely traumatised. She's in bits."
However, another source said Gilligan was expected to survive the shooting.
"We're not too worried about him now. He'll be OK."
Meanwhile, an eerie silence descended on Greenfort Crescent in Clondalkin last night as up to a dozen gardai and detectives swarmed outside the modest two-storey council house where gangland kingpin John Gilligan was shot.
Four uniformed gardai stood guard outside the house as detectives quizzed neighbours. Members of the Garda Technical Bureau cordoned off 10 houses on the street as part of their investigation.
A woman who was on the scene within minutes said: "People who were in their houses told me they were alerted by the sound of around four shots. It was bang, bang, bang and when they raced on to the street they saw John Gilligan lying on the ground.
"They believed he was shot dead because he wasn't moving and when the emergency services arrived he remained on the ground for some time before he was finally taken away in an ambulance.
"John Gilligan was at his niece's child's Christening party. There were a lot of people in the house and garden, including children," the woman said.
"A jeep drove into the street. A person in the house told me the gunmen kicked in the front door and shot him four times. The person in the house said John Gilligan had a vest on but he got shot in the head. It seems the man was driven away in the jeep.
"The gardai were there very quickly and they closed off the scene of the shooting.
"John Gilligan visits the house a lot and people in the street don't like his attitude because he behaved like Lord Muck. He was full of his own importance."