The new John Gilligans
The crime scene John Gilligan knew in the 1990s is very different from today’s. A new generation of volatile young criminals is emerging
“There is a new wave coming through now, to try and cash in when [recreational drug users] start spending properly again,” says a senior detective. The same detective says the newer gang members are likely to demonstrate the immaturity and hot-headedness that led to the feuding in the 2000s.
“We are seeing a lot more pipe-bomb attacks in the past few years, and there are still plenty of weapons out there,” says the source, who adds that the situation is not going to calm down soon.
In 1996, the year Gilligan went to prison, Army bomb-disposal teams dealt with just one viable improvised explosive device. In 2012 they dealt with 96 viable devices, and so far this year they have dealt with 70.
The number of firearms seized in 1996, when the Gilligan gang imploded, reached 696. That statistic peaked in 2008, when 971 firearms were seized. The number of guns seized last year was 696.
“Some of [the new breed of criminal] are keen to get going and use [weapons] like the young fellas who started coming through in the late 1990s,” says one senior source.
“When young fellas become involved, they’re jockeying for position and trying to prove themselves. To be seen to be able and willing to shoot somebody, or to get someone else to do it, would establish them as serious players.”
Another officer agrees: “When you had all the madness in places such as Finglas and Crumlin and Drimnagh, it was with fellas who were still in their 20s. They were new to organised crime, and they were new even [to adulthood]. And there is that thing with young people in any walk of life: they’re desperate to prove themselves. They’re in a hurry.”
“Gilligan will be walking back into that environment where the age [profile] of the people with the guns is much lower than he would have been used to and where they’re more impulsive and they don’t think things through the way older heads would.”
A prisoner who spent a portion of his sentence on the E1 gangland landing at Portlaoise Prison while Gilligan served his term says that Gilligan “liked to be the big personality” on the landing.
The former prisoner also says it is possible that any disputes from Gilligan’s 17 years in jail could resurface in the form of an attack against him now that he has been freed.
“It wouldn’t be the first time something that happened inside spilled over [to the outside world]. And there’s plenty of fellas getting attacked, stabbed, all that, in jail over things going on the outside. I’ll say one thing for him: he’s not stupid. But he’s not bulletproof, either.”