John Gilligan's 'surprise' return to the capital - despite being target of criminal gangs
Crime boss gives detectives 'two-fingered salute' during day out with family and friends
Pint-sized crimelord John Gilligan spent yesterday socialising with family and friends in a Dublin pub - despite being a target of criminal gangs.
Our exclusive images show the convicted drug trafficker looking like he hasn't got a care in the world at a west Dublin premises with family and friends.
Moments later, the cocky gangster gave armed detectives the "two-fingered salute" as he drove away in a taxi.
It's a world away from when he ended up in a wheelchair with bullet wounds following an assassination attempt in March 2014.
Gilligan (64) previously fled the country in fear of his life following two attempted gangland hits, as well as the murder of his bodyguard.
Yesterday, two years after he fled, arrogant Gilligan spent time drinking in a pub in Lucan in West Dublin as members of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) kept him under close surveillance.
He finally left the pub - after eventually being refused service - in a taxi with a number of close relatives.
Before he left he stopped off in an off-licence, buying a number of boxes of alcohol. He then got back into the waiting taxi. As it left the carpark he gave the two-fingers to the armed detectives sitting in nearby unmarked vehicles.
It is believed Gilligan is staying at a west Dublin address, with sources saying he returned to the country late last week - just a day after cigarette smuggler Noel 'Kingsize' Duggan was shot dead.
The reason for Gilligan's return - despite there being credible threats against his life - are not yet known. His presence in the capital was described as a "surprise".
It is the first time he has returned to Ireland since fleeing to Britain.
He moved to Britain due to threats against his life, but also to recover following the attempt on his life in March 2014.
A very weak and frail Gilligan was seen leaving James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown on St Patrick's Day 2014. He was in a wheelchair and was taken to a ferry bound for Britain.
It was reported that Gilligan was still in a wheelchair two months after he was shot.
It's understood Gilligan was living between his extended family, based between Birmingham and London, and occasionally staying in Traveller halting sites with criminals linked to the McCarthy/Dundon gang.
"He has been sighted in the city centre and west Dublin over the last number of days, but it is a surprise to say the least to see him return.
"There have been attempts to kill Gilligan, and detectives will be keeping a close watch on him as long as he stays in the country," the source said.
"However, the fact that he is walking around carefree and without protection would indicate that he feels perfectly safe being back in the country," the source added.
Gilligan remains one of the chief suspects for the murder of investigative journalist Veronica Guerin.
The heroic INM reporter was gunned down in her car on the Naas Road in June 1996. It is believed Gilligan ordered the assassination after Guerin wrote a number of articles on the gangland figure that exposed his flourishing drug-dealing empire. Gilligan fled Ireland over two years ago after his bodyguard, Stephen 'Dougie' Moran, was gunned down outside his Lucan home.
Moran had turned his home into a fortress with bullet-proof windows, CCTV cameras and a large gate, but a hitman still managed to target him as he got out of his car on the way to house.
Just weeks previously - on March 1, 2014 - two masked gunmen burst into the home of Gilligan's brother in Greenfort, Clondalkin and shot Gilligan six times in the body.
He suffered bullet wounds to his upper chest area, stomach, hip and leg. A bullet also grazed his forehead.
The assassination attempt came less than three months after another attempt on his life. That one happened in the Halfway House pub on the Navan Road in December 2013.