Decaying ghostly monument to Gilligan's former crime empire


The Jessbrook Equestrian Centre has mirrored the decline of former owners the Gilligans

Coated in a layer of bird droppings and cobwebs, the estate funded by jailed gang leader John Gilligan has the air of one vacated in a hurry.

In a four-bedroomed apartment above one block of stables at the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre near Johnstownbridge in Co Kildare, sheets are still on the beds some 16 years after the property was frozen by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab).

Two television remote controls sit on the kitchen table, a portable television that has not stirred into life in more than a decade staring down at them.

A Heineken pint glass sits in the sink amid the rat poison laid by staff working for the Cab.

On the roof, two large television aerials hint at the analogue era during which this mini-ghost estate enjoyed its brief heyday.

In one of the bedrooms, a bird, dead for some years, has rotted into the carpet. Elsewhere there are signs of the lives lived in the property before Gilligan’s gang murdered Veronica Guerin in 1996 and his empire crumbled.

In one room a woman’s knitted jumper hangs in a wardrobe. In another, a poster of a topless glamour girl hangs on the wall. The decor in this, the only residential part of the Jessbrook complex now being sold by the Cab, smacks of the early 1990s. There are heavy blue and brown carpets and curtains throughout, with cheap furniture made from melamine-covered MDF and chipboard.

30 stables

The other parts of the complex about to be sold comprise two blocks of 30 stables, along with the one-time jewel in the Gilligans’ crown, a near-finished 3,500-seat showjumping arena. The stables, built with steel and breeze-blocks, are in working order, with just a light coat of rust on the steel girders.

There are leaks in the roof but they are few and have caused no appreciable internal damage, leaving an amenity that would be the envy of horse-mad children in many disadvantaged parts of nearby Dublin.

There are tack rooms kitted out with hooks, wooden saddle-boxes and other boxes for hanging horse blankets and storing boots and kit.

A 1996 Bank of Ireland calendar hangs on a wall of the stable office, while a 1995 04 area Golden Pages dangles from a string nailed to the wall.

The names of some of the horses can be seen outside the stables, among them Betty Boo, Tuffy, Hector and Ben.

Gilligan and his wife Geraldine built a floodlit outdoor jumping arena that has survived.

A large cross-country-style course, with jumps and other features, stretches across some of the site and, while weeds and thorns have thrived, much of the course appears not to have decayed.

In the arena, the 3,500 blue and red plastic seats look new, save for a coating of dust.

90 acres

It is here that the birds and roof leaks have done most damage, although it is confined to the ground floor and first-floor corridors and corporate boxes.

The showjumping area is cluttered with equipment stored by the Office of Public Works, which has been managing the site for the Cab.

The large expanse is filled with everything from desks used in State exams to filing cabinets and boxes of roof slates.

The arena, stables and about 90 acres – along with houses in Lucan and Corduff – are being sold by Cab after the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal by Mrs Gilligan and her adult children Darren and Tracey.

The main residence on the land and a number of acres around it are owned by Mrs Gilligan and remain the subject of the Cab court proceedings.

The estate was built between November 1993, when Gilligan was released from prison after a sentence for handling stolen property, and the end of 1996, when he was held on remand following the murder of Guerin.

He was cleared of that killing but jailed for drug offences and is due for release next August.