John Gilligan walks free after lengthy jail term
Convicted drug dealer freed from maximum security Portlaoise Prison at 9.35am
John Gilligan released from Portlaoise Prison this morning. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
The convicted drug dealer John Gilligan has been released from prison this morning having spent almost 17 years in jail, most of it serving a 20-year term for drugs.
The 61-year-old originally from Ballyfermot, Dublin, left maximum security Portlaoise Prison at 9.35am.
He walked through large wooden doors at the jail to a waiting silver Ford Mondeo parked just metres away driven by two associates.
The vehicle had been permitted by the prison authorities to drive onto the prison campus through the main vehicle entrance for the purposes of parking right beside the wooden door where Gilligan walked out.
It meant Gilligan could get into the car while still on the prison campus and did not need to walk past the media waiting outside the main gates onto the public road.
He was smiling as he walked to the car and as he sped past the media waiting at the main entrance, he was smiling and talking on his mobile phone in the back of the vehicle.
Gardaí at the entrance kept the media clear of the path of his vehicle to facilitate his swift and unimpeded departure.
A large media presence was in evidence for what was one of the most high profile releases from an Irish prison in decades. Journalists, photographers and TV camera crews began to gather outside the prison from yesterday afternoon.
They did so in the event the Irish Prison Service released the father of two early in a bid to avoid the scenes when photographers on motorbikes chased convicted rapist Larry Murphy on his release from Arbour Hill jail in Dublin three years ago.
Gilligan was followed from the prison by some media in cars and on motorbikes this morning.
There was a modest Garda presence at the exit of the prison, with those uniformed and plain clothes gardai put in place specifically for the release.
A small number of onlookers had also gathered, most of them men in their early 20s. Some slept in their cars outside the jail to ensure they would be present when the release took place.
“It’s not every day you’re going to see John Gilligan is it, you know what I mean?” one of the onlookers told The Irish Times.
Many Garda and prison sources expect Gilligan to leave the country.
He was convicted in 2001 of trafficking cannabis and initially jailed for 28 years. That term was later reduced on appeal to 20 years.
It was also backdated to take into consideration time he had spent on remand awaiting trial, at first in jail in the UK from where he was extradited to Ireland and then in prison here.
He was also entitled to remission, or time off for good behaviour, of 25 per cent; equating to five years in his case. It was a legal entitlement not adversely impacted by a very poor record while in jail.
During his drugs sentence, which he served on the E1 landing of Portlaoise Prison which is reserved for gangland criminals, he was caught in possession of mobile phones and also issued threats against prison officers.
He was convicted of those crimes and his term of imprisonment was extended by additional short sentences handed down by the courts for those crimes committed while in custody.
Gilligan was charged with the 1996 murder of Veronica Guerin but was acquitted of that crime. The sentence he received at the time for drug dealing remains the longest drugs term ever imposed by an Irish court.