The leaders of the Collopy drug gang in Limerick met with a relative of Dublin drug lord George 'Penguin' Mitchell, five days before they were arrested packing heroin in a house, writes David Raleigh.
Brian and Kieran Collopy, who were jailed for eight years yesterday, were under Garda surveillance at the time.
The Limerick siblings met the Dublin drug dealer and another of his associates in Supermac's fast food outlet in Portlaoise on Thursday, December 10.
"They discussed their business links," as one security source put it.
An undercover garda managed to place themselves near the Collopys and their Dublin associates to overhear their plans.
"This was the Thursday before they were caught. They met two hoods in Portlaoise about a drug deal," the source said.
"They met a relative of George 'Penguin' Mitchell in Supermac's in Portlaoise.
"The Collopys travelled up from Limerick and the other lads travelled over from Dublin."
"Let's just say the meeting was monitored. It was under surveillance," the source added.
On December 15, gardaí forced their way into three interconnecting houses in the Collopy stronghold St Mary's Park and caught the brothers "red handed" packing nearly €40,000 worth of heroin.
The Collopys first got involved in the illicit drug trade in the late 1990s just as the Limerick gang feud began to explode.
The family, from St Mary's Park, became involved with their criminal neighbours the Keanes, which at the time was headed up by brothers Christy and Kieran, who operated a lucrative drug gang.
Christy Keane - who served part of a 10-year jail sentence for possession of €250,000 worth of cannabis - survived a second attempted hit of his life last year when two gunmen fired several shots from close range, seriously injuring him.
His brother Kieran was kidnapped and tortured and shot in the head in January 2003.
At the height of the Limerick feud, the Collopys kept out of the city's raging feud, instead concentrating solely on selling drugs to wholesalers who in turn fed it to street dealers for €25 a deal.
With Christy in jail and Kieran murdered, the Collopys took control of their neighbour's territory in St Mary's Park.
The security source described the jailing of Brian and Kieran Collopy as "good news" for the people of Limerick, but added, others will "step in" to fill the gap.
They are up to four main operators selling heroin in Limerick, they said.
"There are about 15 to 20 key players. Some gangs are smaller than others...but jailing the Collopy brothers will make a difference alright - it sends out the right message," they explained.
Despite the Collopy brothers being sent away for eight years, the source confirmed the gang "still have people working for them".
"It's business as usual," they added.
The source explained there are "three or four offshoots" of the drug gangs operating in Limerick, which include "five or six guys at the top of each gang".
"You only have to walk the streets of Limerick to see there is a large problem. It's simple economics - the demand is there so there is supply."
They explained how Brian and Kieran Collopy operated from the top level of their drug gang.
"You have an ordinary Joe Soap on the street and he could be selling 10 or 15 deals in his pocket at €25 a piece - he is bottom of the ladder. He's buying around three or four grams of heroin from a wholesaler."
"The wholesaler would buy about an ounce from the Collopy gang. They got it from contacts in Dublin, before they bagged and sold it to the wholesaler."
In 2006 Brian and Kieran's other siblings, Vincent and Jonathan, we jailed for three years each after their arrest following an undercover Garda operation targeting the sale of heroin.
Operation Clean Street was put in place after gardaí became concerned about the level of heroin dealing in Limerick city.
In 2009, a fifth brother, Philip Collopy, accidentally shot himself in the head.
Philip Collopy and Kieran Keane were the main suspects for the fatal shooting of Keane's former associate Eddie Ryan snr, in the Moose Bar in November 2000.