Gardaí believe they have saved lives and inflicted a double blow to Drogheda's feuding gangs after separate hauls of firearms and drugs.
Under a dedicated Garda operation, code named Stratus, detectives in Drogheda intercepted a massive 20kgs of cocaine followed by the seizure of three handguns, assorted magazines and ammunition in a holdall.
Gardaí suspect the firearms, and the ammunition, would have been used to carry out shootings in the violent feud between the town's two dominant gangs.
Detectives are investigating if the murder last week of major drug boss Richie Carberry in Bettystown, Co Meath, is linked to the feud, which claimed its first life with the shooting dead of Keith Branigan at Clogherhead, Co Louth, last August.
The murders came on the back of 18 months of feuding, which saw numerous attempted gun murders, near misses for civilians, arson attacks and cases of torture.
“The firearms and ammunition were there to carry out shootings and lives could have been lost,” said one garda source.
The seizure of 20kgs of cocaine is believed to be the second biggest haul of the drug nationally this year. Officers believe the consignment, which had been broken up, was destined for the Christmas market in the Co Louth town.
Detectives are investigating if a major Meath-based drugs outfit were behind the haul and was supplying the consignment to one of the two feuding gangs. A man arrested with the haul of cocaine, contained in two boxes in the boot of a car he was driving, is believed by gardaí to be a “logistics man” for the drugs gang.
The seizure was the first of three actions taken under Operation Stratus on Monday. Based on intelligence, local detectives intercepted a vehicle at the Donore Road Industrial Estate in the town, shortly after noon.
Three hours later, local gardaí operating on intelligence, searched a house in the centre of Drogheda and recovered the holdall. On Monday night, gardaí in the town seized around €25,000 worth of cannabis.
Gardaí in Drogheda are noticing a rise in drug offences this year, with some 80 cases of sale or supply so far this year. Earlier this month, 14 people were brought before Drogheda District Court as a result of Operation Polygon, targeting street dealing.
“There's a big demand in Drogheda, as the cocaine seizure shows,” said a source. “You see the scale of its use all around, in all walks of life.”
Commenting on the hauls, Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, head of Special Crime Operations, congratulated the gardaí.
“Taking these drugs out of circulation and the removal of firearms makes the border area safer,” he said.
He said a couple of weeks ago he was in the border area commenting on the seizure in Dundalk by the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau in Dundalk of €3.2m worth of cannabis herb (around 160kgs). He said cocaine use had increased with the recovering economy and that “unfortunately” many people were buying it, which was keeping organised crime in business.
“These criminals, while they sell drugs, they also, some of them, engaged in causing serious injury to people and indeed murdering people on occasion.”