Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Sale agreed for Jessbrook estate

The Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, a Co Kildare equestrian centre which belonged to one of Ireland's most notorious criminals, has been sold by the state

An equestrian centre once owned by one of Ireland's most notorious criminals has been sold by the state.

A "sale agreed" sign has been erected at John Gilligan's prized Jessbrook estate in Co Kildare, which was sized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) almost 17 years ago.

Gilligan, a convicted drugs trafficker and one-time chief suspect in the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, walked free from Portloaise high security prison in October.

He had spent 17 years behind bars.

His Olympic-sized Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, in Mucklon near Enfield has lain empty since July 1996.

It finally went on the property market in September for 500,000 euro (£417,420) - a fraction of previous valuations of around five million euro (£4.17 million) when assets inspectors first moved in.

Just shy of 50 acres, its 3,500 seat arena with a VIP section and commentary booths are an empty shell.

A separate building containing 12 stables, a tack room, Gilligan's old office and a four-bedroom apartment were also included in the price.

There was also a service area and viewing stand, and a hangar with 32 additional stables.

The complex was one of three lots that once formed Gilligan's doomed equestrian empire.

The other two are made up of 8.73 acres and 21.13 acres of agricultural land.

Drawn-out attempts by Gilligan to retain the properties faltered in November last year when the Supreme Court threw out his appeal.

The ruling meant the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, along with 90 acres of land, and a house at Weston Green in Lucan, were handed over to the state.

Gilligan is thought to have spent 1.5 million Irish pounds - mostly in cash - developing the facility to international standards at the time, but it was never fully completed.

Works for the new owners include roof repairs and the installation of electricity.

But the Gilligan family recently launch a fresh legal challenge over the legality of the sale, which was rejected in the High Court.

It is believed the action was intended to act as a deterrent to potential buyers.

Gilligan, 61, has claimed in court the only reason he was being pursued by Cab was because of the murder of the Sunday Independent journalist.

He was cleared of the 1996 killing but sentenced to 20 years for drug trafficking.

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