The Jessbrook Equestrian Centre is being used as a warehouse by the OPW.
Mistakenly thought by many to be in Meath, probably because directions from Dublin include leaving the motorway at Enfield, Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, which was built by the criminal John Gilligan, is in Mucklon, Co. Kildare.
Mucklon lies between Timahoe and the outskirts of Johnstownbridge and is a quiet country road populated by a few dozen houses, some farms and hundreds of acres of bogland.
In a relatively small country like Ireland it was a perfect place to build a country retreat, if the quiet life was what you were after, which Mr Gilligan was when he built it in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Following the murder of Veronica Guerin, which he was suspected to have been involved in, pressure came to bear on Gilligan and his associates, who were believed to have been amongst the biggest importers of drugs into the country.
This led to a 20 year conviction in 2001 for possession of drugs.
Jessbrook Equestrian Centre is on a 77 acre site and was, at the time it was first built, the largest indoor equestrian arena in the country.
Under legislation that established the Criminal Assets Bureau, the State set about seizing Jessbrook on the basis that they believed it was an asset bought with the proceeds of criminal activity.
From jail, Mr Gilligan challenged the CAB all the way to the Supreme Court but on December 19, 2008, he finally lost his battle.
According to a response in June of this year to a Dail Question from Bernard Durkan on the future of the centre, Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter said that the facility is now in State hands and that “a receiver has been appointed with a responsibility to maintain the premises in good order and, if possible, to generate financial return.
“The equestrian centre, stables and the lands are now the subject of a rent and repair lease with the Office of Public Works.”
According to the OPW’s annual report from 2008, the state body is paying E65,000 per annum rent on the property. And they have confirmed to the Leinster Leader that they use it as a warehouse.
Coincidentally, a Dublin City Councillor has suggested in the past that the Smithfield Horse Fair which has been the subject of concern following violence there should be moved to Jessbrook.
Noting that it is “currently being maintained by the OPW at the public’s expense,” Cllr Deirde Heany suggested it would be a good alternative site.