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Gangster openly ignored planning laws to start construction at centre


The main arena in the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre in 2013

The main arena in the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre in 2013

The ‘Sale Agreed’ sign at the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre.

The ‘Sale Agreed’ sign at the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre.

The main arena in the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre in 2013

John and Geraldine Gilligan rode roughshod over the planning laws in their lavish plans for their dream Jessbrook equestrian centre, and expanded it without bothering to wait for any planning permission.

Five years after getting planning permission to build a stable block behind their house, John and Geraldine's plans for the massive Jessbrook equestrian centre were first submitted to Kildare County Council.

The Gilligan's planning application 95/722 was submitted in April, 1995.

The notices took up a small place in the planning lists of the newspapers, but the centre itself would be anything but small.

There was also an application to demolish a "sub-standard" two-storey house on the site near the road.

At this stage Geraldine Gilligan described herself as a horse trainer and breeder.

They started construction on it even while the county planners were trying to get to grips with the scale of the project. In September 1995, Kildare Council sought extra information from the Gilligans in relation to their plan, and made some interesting notes based on a site visit to Mucklon.

In a letter from the council to the Gilligans on September 14, 1995 it is noted that the site "contains a considerable amount of unauthorised development including an outdoor exercise arena and ancillary facilities" including a control box, lighting and a PA system, as well as the upgrading of a stable block.


"It was further noted that the two-storey house for which permission is being sought to carry out its demolition has already been demolished and the site cleared in an unauthorised manner," the letter added.

The letter was written a day after Gilligan attacked journalist Veronica Guerin at Mucklon when she called to query his lifestyle with no apparent source of legitimate income.

In a reply to the letter on October 30, 1995 on behalf of Geraldine, Gilligan's architect said the two-storey house in question was "demolished for safety and security reasons".

"We apologise on Mrs Gilligan's behalf over this mistake," he added.

On February 5, 1996 the council wrote to Geraldine Gilligan granting permission for Jessbrook, subject to ten conditions, but work was already well underway on the project because the Gilligans had ploughed ahead with it regardless.

In June 1996, Gilligan's gang murdered Veronica Guerin which was to spark the formation of the Criminal Assets Bureau which targeted Gilligan among other of the country's senior criminals.

It would eventually lead to Gilligan losing his beloved Jessbrook, with the CAB moving on it while he was serving 17 years behind bars for drug trafficking

Jessbrook would be later valued in boom-years at more than €5m but was sold this year by the CAB for one-tenth of that.

The property bubble, and Gilligan's dreams, had burst.