Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan expected to remain in Ireland

Gardaí clear way for Gilligan’s swift, unimpeded departure from Portlaoise jail

Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan looks set to remain in Ireland rather than move abroad after his release from prison yesterday.

He 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 and was driven to his brother’s house in Greenfort, Clondalkin, west Dublin.

“I’m after being decent enough, respectful enough,” he told reporters at the house who had pursued him there on motorbikes and in cars.

"I didn't duck and dive. I could have come out of the prison and hid; I won't be hiding from nobody, I have no problems with anybody."

Earlier he had walked through large wooden doors at the jail to a waiting silver Ford Mondeo parked just yards away after his brother Thomas and another man had gone to the jail to collect him. The vehicle had been permitted by the prison authorities to drive on to the prison campus through the main vehicle entrance for the purpose of parking beside the door where Mr Gilligan walked out.


It meant Mr 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 on to the public road.

He was smiling as he walked the few yards to the car and as he went 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 television camera crews began to gather outside the prison from Monday afternoon.

A small number of onlookers had also gathered, most of them men in their early 20s. Some slept in their cars outside the jail overnight 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 onlookers told The Irish Times.

Mr Gilligan was convicted in 2001 of trafficking cannabis and initially jailed for 28 years but 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.

Mr Gilligan was charged with the 1996 murder of Veronica Guerin but was acquitted of that crime. However, the sentence he received at the time for drug dealing remains the longest drugs term ever imposed by an Irish court.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times