Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan, suspected leader of the gang that murdered reporter Veronica Gilligan, has been warned his life is in danger after an attempt was made on it.

An armed man, wearing a motorcycle helmet, went into the Halfway House pub on the Navan Road in Dublin last week and shouted, "Where's Gilligan?" before leaving on a motorbike.

A short time later Gardai (police) caught up with the motorbike, but the driver got away following a short pursuit. Officers recovered a 9mm handgun, which was thrown from the motorbike.

Detectives believe 61-year-old Gilligan is lucky to be alive as the gunman went to the wrong location. Gilligan was drinking in another, nearby pub.

Gardai have advised him on his own personal security after the incident and have begun a criminal investigation.

Gilligan told RTE News that he did not know why someone would try to shoot him. He claimed he has no enemies and it "must have been kids" playing a delayed Halloween prank.

But detectives are probing underworld reports that Gilligan has been "shaking down a number of former associates for cash."

Gardai have a massive list of potential suspects whom they believe want to murder the gang boss, who was released from prison in October after serving nearly 17 years for drug-running.

Although he remains a suspected leader of the gang that killed Veronica Guerin in 1996, he was not convicted of her murder.

A Garda source said, "Information has come in that he has been personally calling to the doors of people all over the city that he perceives owe him money and this could be another reason why someone would want him dead.

"The list of people that want Gilligan dead is as long as a piece of string, but there is no doubt that if he keeps shaking down people for cash, he will end up dead very soon."

Gilligan is currently involved in legal proceedings where the Criminal Assets Bureau wants the High Court to strike out a potential legal impediment to the sale of property, including the Jessbrook equestrian center, which was seized from Gilligan and his family.