herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

gilligan's year o f the gun

MARKED MAN: A year ago, the cocky ex-crimelord smirked with a beer after his release from jail. Now it's a different story, says Ken Foy

He spends his days in a constant state of paranoia, fearful that at any stage he will be tracked down to one of the safehouses he uses in England.

Looking every day of his 62 years, the once brash former gang boss, is almost a broken man.

But Ireland's most notorious criminal refuses to give him. He still has deluded plans that he will return to Ireland to live and that he will somehow get enough cash to become a major player in the underworld again.

However, John Gilligan must know deep down, as he continues with rehabilitation classes to help him walk, that he is a nobody in terms of organised crime in Ireland in 2014.

The years before he ordered the murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin in 1996 he was the country's crime kingpin and top cannabis importer. It must seem like light years away for Gilligan who was forced to flee Ireland last March after the latest attempt on his life and murder of an associate.

bullets

Younger criminals view him as a "trophy target" according to gardai, a washed-up weakened gangster who dozens of vicious hoods would gladly put a bullet into.

Tomorrow it will be a year since the cocky crook walked out of the gates of Portlaoise Prison and later held an impromptu press conference at the home of his brother in Clondalkin.

Less than five months later at this very same property, Gilligan was extremely lucky to escape with his life when a hitman riddled him with bullets.

Two masked and armed men hit Gilligan in the face, hip, leg and chest before escaping in a silver-coloured SUV.

Roll back to the sunny early afternoon of October 15 last year and Gilligan could have had no idea how hostile life on the outside would be after being locked up in high-security prisons since 1996.

Despite instructing his solicitor to inform media outlets that he would not do media interviews even if he was offered €1m, he could not help himself when reporters knocked at the door of the house at Greenfort Crescent in Clondalkin, just hours after he was sped from Portlaoise prison.

With a sinister smirk, Gilligan proclaimed: "I had nothing to do with Veronica Guerin's

murder" before stating: "This girl [Veronica], God rest her, she never wrote one word about me."

When Gilligan was asked if he threatened to rape Ms Guerin's son he said: "No I didn't. Not a chance in a million years."

He went on to say he could have hidden away from the media after his release but chose not to.

"I'm after being decent enough, respectful enough, I didn't duck and dive," said Gilligan.

"I could have come out of the prison and hid. I won't be hiding from nobody, I have no problem with anybody."

And when asked what his plans were Gilligan defiantly declared: "My plans are to go in and have another beer. I'm delighted to be out of prison. I feel great."

But in the weeks and months ahead, Gilligan would be quickly shown that Ireland's new breed of criminals had zero respect for a grandfather who tried to throw his weight around like it was still the mid-1990s.

attack

It has still not been definitely established if February's gun attack on Gilligan was carried out by the same Finglas criminals who tried to have him killed shortly before Christmas.

Gardai believe that the first attempt on Gilligan's life was carried out by a criminal who had a serious disagreement with the tiny thug in Portlaoise prison.

It is believed the criminal who agreed to murder Gilligan had intelligence that he met his son Darren in the Hole in the Wall pub beside the Phoenix Park several times a week.

However, the bungling gangsters targeted the wrong pub.

Shortly before 4pm on the day, the armed robber, wearing a motorcycle helmet and carrying a high-powered Luger handgun, burst into the Halfway House on the Navan Road, Castleknock - which is only minutes away from the Hole in the Wall - and started shouting "where's Gilligan?"

He ran through three bars looking for his target before fleeing when he realised he wasn't there.

Gardai spotted the man trying to make his getaway on a motorbike driven by an accomplice and gave chase on the back roads towards Finglas.

The assassin threw the Luger away on the Ratoath Road, but the bike was too powerful for the squad car and the men escaped.

Gilligan was warned by gardai that his life was in danger, but refused to engage with detectives and claimed the incident was a "Halloween prank".

However, Gilligan became more paranoid and ended up being being driven around in an armourplated BMW for his own protection by Lucan-based gangster Stephen 'Dougie' Moran, who also acted as his bodyguard.

But his luck was soon to run out when he was shot several times last February at his brother's home following a family christening.

grazed

He was operated on for gunshot injuries to his chest and leg. He also received stitches to a wound to his head after being grazed by a bullet.

His subseuqent two-week spell at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown- cost the State around €35,000 in accommodation and security.

Despite multiple requests by detectives, Gilligan refused to tell officers anything about the shooting incident where he sought sanctuary in a bathroom.

Moran would soon pay the ultimate price for his close links to Gilligan when he was shot dead on March 16 outside his heavily-fortified home - a fortnight after Gilligan was shot.

The murder of 'Dougie' Moran was the final straw for Gilligan who fled Ireland just 24 hours later.

And by the time he was forced to flee on a night ferry on St Patrick's Day - as he was wheeled onto the boat - he cut a pathetic looking figure who was struggling to live after the second attempt on his life.

He stays in safe houses in London, Birmingham and Manchester fearful of another attempt on his life.

He has not returned to Dublin since March but there has been speculation that he might be back in his old stomping ground this week to attend the funeral of his brother Bernard who died in Tallaght Hospital at the weekend.

Gardai in the Clondalkin area remain on a high state of alert and have been monitoring Bernard's Clondalkin home to determine if Gilligan does indeed return home.

kfoy@herald.ie

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