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Sunday, 22 February 2009

John Gilligan built Jessbrook Equestrian Centre and his mansion on drug smuggling and robbery, but now the €5m complex is the State's storeroom

14:25 |

John Gilligan built Jessbrook Equestrian Centre and his mansion on drug smuggling and robbery, but now the €5m complex is the State's storeroom -- with cheap furniture, including exam desks and chairs, all piled up in the centre of the vast indoor arena.Jessbrook was Gilligan's vanity project and a way to launder the pots of dirty money he made from the drugs trade.But it was also built as a route into civilised society, so the gang leader and his wife Geraldine could rub shoulders with decent people who were unaware that the Squire of Jessbrook was a hoodlum importing vast quantities of cannabis into Ireland.It was at Jessbrook that Gilligan viciously beat Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin when she bravely asked him about his criminal activities. She was murdered before the assault charge could be dealt with by the courts.Now Jessbrook is in tatters, the once elegant driveway is pockmarked with potholes and the pristine paddocks are overgrown with weeds including what looks like ragwort.Since the Criminal Assets Bureau successfully took control of the 100-acre estate, the equestrian centre at Jessbrook has become a warehouse for the Office of Public Works.There's a small staff on duty and the twisty back roads around Mucklon in Co Kildare are a regular destination for trucks carrying inventory from the OPW.It's all non-valuable bric-a-brac; old and broken computer monitors, out-of-date publications, non-confidential paperwork and scaffolding planks. The synthetic surface where show jumping horses were once put through their paces has been removed and a five-inch layer of hardcore and gravel laid along the exterior walls of Jessbrook, that front on to the main road, as a courtesy to their neighbours.But it cannot hide the feeling of decay. When he fought tooth and nail in the courts to keep Jessbrook, Gilligan claimed the Criminal Assets Bureau's valuation of his country bolthole at €5m was too low. Now it looks like a a very generous estimate.Up at the main house Gilligan and his gang felt they were untouchable. Gilligan amassed millions but he had no class and his pride and joy was a tacky but hideously expensive private bar made of solid oak with Budweiser, Heineken and Guinness on tap and an array of crystal champagne flutes.Now there is a rank smell and bad atmosphere about the place -- bad enough to put off any prospective private purchaser -- even at a knockdown price,The OPW is paying a rent of €65,000 a year to use Jessbrook as a warehouse

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