NOTORIOUS gangster John Gilligan could walk free from Portlaoise Prison as early as tonight after serving nearly 20 years in jail for importing drugs.
Prison sources have confirmed that Gilligan – the boss of the gang that murdered journalist Veronica Guerin – will not be released early and will not get any special treatment to help him avoid media attention.
Arrangements for Gilligan's imminent release were finalised by prison chiefs in recent days.
A source said: "He's not going to be getting anything special. He's been a burden for the last 13 years.
"He's cost the taxpayer tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands in court appearances and protection fees. There'll be nothing exceptional granted to him."
As one of Ireland's most high-profile criminals, Gilligan's release is likely to be met with a significant media presence.
He has already released a statement through a solicitor saying that neither he nor any members of his family will be giving interviews "concerning any of his plans or intentions with regard to his future, nor any other subject".
The statement read: "Mr Gilligan wishes it to be expressly known that even if each paper, magazine and/or television station offered him one million euro, he will not give an interview."
Gilligan – who was originally sentenced to 28 years in 2001, which was later reduced to 20 on appeal – has reportedly listed his original family home in Corduff, Dublin, as his place of residence after his release.
However, there is speculation that he could return to a house beside Jessbrook, his planned equestrian centre that was seized by the State and where his wife Geraldine has been living recently.
She is engaged in legal action to prevent the State from seizing the bungalow even though the equestrian centre has been put on the market for €500,000.
Other reports suggest that Gilligan will move to Spain.
Veronica Guerin, a 'Sunday Independent' journalist who had been investigating the drug baron's empire, was murdered in 1996. Gilligan was never convicted in relation to her death.
Writing in that newspaper yesterday, Ms Guerin's brother Jimmy said that as Gilligan walks free, those affected by his sister's death "still suffer a loss and pain which they will take to their graves with them".
He added: "Families who have lost loved ones to the scourge of drugs must also feel pain as Ireland's biggest drug dealer is back on our streets."