CONVICTED drug dealer John Gilligan was targeted in a botched gangland attack because he had been threatening former criminal associates over money that he claims he is owed, gardai believe.
However, Gilligan dismissed an incident in which a gunman went looking for him in the wrong pub on Thursday afternoon as a 'Halloween prank'.
Yesterday, senior detectives officially warned Gilligan that his life was in danger after gardai recovered a 9mm Luger pistol which the gunman had dumped during a chase.
A short time earlier, the hitman, who was the pillion passenger on a motorbike, walked into the Halfway House on the Navan Road on Dublin's northside, looking for the mobster who was drinking nearby in the Hole In The Wall pub.
Sources have revealed that Gilligan refused to accept a GIM form -- Garda Information Message -- officially informing him of a threat to his life.
He also declined to give the officers his telephone number or current address, telling them: "I am not concerned about this, it's a Halloween prank."
Speaking after an unrelated court appearance in the High Court yesterday, Gilligan shrugged off what gardai say was a real attempt on his life.
"I just think it was a Halloween prank, I've no problem with anybody," he said outside the Four Courts, where he is continuing to challenge attempts by CAB to take his Jessbrook Equestrian Centre in Co Meath.
Security sources say that the gangster (61), who was with his son Darren, was "fortunate" that the hit team mistook the pub where he was drinking when the gunman entered the Halfway House.
Security sources say that Gilligan has been trying to muscle his way back into the drug business and has been threatening former associates for money.
"There is creditable intelligence to suggest that Gilligan has been pushing his weight about and making threats, which has always been his form," a source told the Irish Independent last night.
"This was a determined effort to murder him and there had been some sort of surveillance on his movements. It is likely the gunman and his accomplice mixed up the two pubs."
The gunman who entered the pub beside the Phoenix Park, reportedly said: "Where's Gilligan? Where's Gilligan?"
After searching the bar and failing to find his target, the bungling hitman left on the motorbike.
A short time later, gardai tried to stop the bike on Ratoath Road in Finglas. The gunman dumped his fully loaded weapon and the pair escaped.
A worker in the pub said: "Some fella just walked in, walked around and left. I didn't see any gun on him."
Since Gilligan's release on October 15, gardai have been on high alert over possible assassination attempts.
The gangster spent 17 years behind bars for running one of the biggest drug-trafficking gangs in the country, which was responsible for journalist Veronica Guerin's murder.
The incident took place just two days after Gilligan's estranged wife Geraldine was told to prove she is not drawing an income from her daughter Tracey's pub in Alicante, Spain.
She has taken the Department of Social Protection to court for cutting off her welfare payments.
Meanwhile, CAB wants the High Court to strike out a potential legal impediment to the sale of property seized from John Gilligan and his family.
The Gilligans have filed a legal notice called a 'lis pendens', warning prospective purchasers of Jessbrook and of three houses in Dublin that the properties are subject to a legal dispute.
Mr Justice George Birmingham said he hoped to give his decision on the CAB application in two weeks.
- Paul Williams, Special Correspondent