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Gilligan's lofty plans came crashing down

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John Gilligan at work close to the equestrian centre that has been seized by CAB.

John Gilligan at work close to the equestrian centre that has been seized by CAB.

The massive equestrian centre and stables at Jessbrook House estate in Mucklon, Co Kildare

The massive equestrian centre and stables at Jessbrook House estate in Mucklon, Co Kildare

Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The massive equestrian centre and stables at Jessbrook House estate in Mucklon, Co Kildare

The massive equestrian centre and stables at Jessbrook House estate in Mucklon, Co Kildare

Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

John Gilligan at work close to the equestrian centre that has been seized by CAB.

Convicted drug-trafficker John Gilligan and his wife Geraldine had lofty ambitions and lavish plans for their dream home and equestrian centre when they first arrived in the isolated rural townland of Mucklon, near Johnstownbridge in Kildare, in 1987.

And when a plot to build a plush five-bedroom house, complete with sauna, jacuzzi, sun room and games room, was shot-down by the council, the Gilligans went about realising their dreams anyway, regardless of who wanted to stand in their way.

The first plot bought was the area where Geraldine still lives and is currently being sought by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) through the courts.

It is beside the Jessbrook equestrian centre that was seized by the CAB and sold-on this year.

The Gilligans bought this home plot in the summer of 1987, with the grant of transfer between the previous owners and Geraldine being registered in official records on September 7.

In a thorough examination of the various planning applications the Gilligans made to Kildare County Council, it can be revealed that the first application was on June 25, 1987 - before that transfer was even registered. They wanted to demolish the existing house on the site and replace it with a two-storey five-bed luxury home.

In the application details, Geraldine identifies her occupation as a clothing importer. Her clothing interest is possibly a connection back to her days as a young woman working as a line operative in an underwear factory in Ballyfermot.

But her interest in horses and her dream equestrian centre is hinted at even at this early stage. On the planning application she wanted an existing building on the site to be retained as stables. Geraldine Gilligan has long had an interest in horses. Old friends of hers remember her at the age of 15 riding on a pie-bald pony up Loch Conn Road in Ballyfermot to meet her then-boyfriend John.

The planning application notice for their project was printed in newspapers on Friday June 19, 1987 where her future ambitions in the equestrian world are also mentioned: "She also has a keen interest in horses and this six-acre site is large enough to enable her to keep horses."

Geraldine also stated that the existing house on the site was "too small for her needs".

Although the area of Mucklon is remote and rural, not one of the locals made any objections to the Gilligan's plans for their 4,450-square foot home that would dominate the landscape.

Regardless of this, plans for the house were refused by Kildare County Council on the grounds it would "consolidate a trend towards piecemeal residential developments", and also on the grounds that "the development was not associated with agricultural land use".

The Gilligans appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanala. At this stage John Gilligan was amassing a fortune from crime. 'Factory John' was ripping off warehouses, robbing in bulk and selling-on anything that would get a price.

baron

But in an effort to sway the planning authorities, they said in their appeal that they intended to "enter into beef farming". But John Gilligan's future was to be as a drugs baron, not a beef baron.

The appeal against the council's decision not to grant permission for the house is the first hint that the Gilligans were going to expand their operations. The idea for Jessbrook had been conceived.

But An Bord Pleanala upheld the council's original decision and the Gilligans never got to build their dream home.

Come 1990 the Gilligans applied for permission to retain a bathroom that had already been built, as well as permission to build a block with eight stables behind their house.

There were no objections from locals, and Kildare County Council deemed it fine. The Gilligans received permission for this application in April 1990.

But while original plans submitted show the stable block as a separate building from the house, more recent aerial photographs and witness accounts show it was connected to the house.

In 1993, Gilligan applied to the Irish Permanent for a €30,000 mortgage, which was granted that December.

In February, 1994 they drew down €20,000 out of that €30,000, but it was all paid back that August less than six months later.

Every other transaction in relation to buying lands and building property at Mucklon, including the purchase of the original house and the building of Jessbrook, was done with their own reserves, not with borrowings, according to informed sources.

hnews@herald.ie


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