Gardaí are investigating whether the latest massive drug seizure is connected to the Hutch criminal grouping.
Two of the four people arrested, believed to be significant players in the drug trafficking gang, have connections to Dublin’s north inner city and one has close links with the leaders of the Hutch outfit.
The development comes as a report being drafted for a government taskforce on the north inner city is set to call for an increase in “visible and consistent policing” and a “strengthened focus on local drug enforcement”.
The report, drafted by Kieran Mulvey, is calling for action to deal with drug- related intimidation and the development of “alternative pathways from criminality” for at-risk young people.
In a joint operation on Tuesday, the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and Revenue uncovered 160kg of cannabis herb, worth an estimated €3.2m on the street.
It followed an interception operation on a number of cars in the Ashbourne area of Co Meath and a follow-up search at a nearby business premises.
Four men, aged between 25 and 61, were arrested.
One of those arrested is closely associated with a senior member of the Hutch grouping.
That individual, from the north inner city, lives in Co Meath and is currently facing a serious charge in the courts.
A second man arrested is also from the north inner city.
Garda sources said that while there were actively examining the Hutch connection, it was just one of a number of avenues being explored.
Gardaí believe they have disrupted the importation pattern of this group.
It comes as gardaí are on alert for further violence in the Kinahan-Hutch feud with the first anniversary of the Regency Hotel attack this Sunday.
David Byrne from Crumlin, a senior lieutenant in the Kinahan cartel, was shot dead in that assault, sparking a murderous campaign by the cartel, resulting in the death of eight people.
“These guys are hell-bent on killing each other,” said a Garda source, “but we are doing all we can to stop them.”
The Armed Support Unit, using high-visibility vehicles, and the Special Crime Task Force, travelling in unmarked cars, are conducting patrols in the north inner city (the Hutch base) and the south-west of the city (the Kinahan base).
Meanwhile, a report being drafted for a Government taskforce on the north inner city, which is being led by the Taoiseach, is set to recommend that a local garda station be transformed into a “centre for community policing”.
Giving an outline of his draft report to the community on Wednesday, Mr Mulvey said a key action would be to “increase the levels of visible and consistent policing presence”.
He also wanted a “strengthened focus on local drug enforcement” and a “local asset profiling service” feeding into the Criminal Assets Bureau.
He recommended making Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station “a centre for community policing”. He called for community measures to tackle intimidation and a public awareness campaign to promote the drug-related, intimidation-reporting programme.
Mr Mulvey also wants “alternatives pathways from criminality” for at-risk young people and a youth leadership programme.
Tony Duffin of the Ana Liffey Project commended Mr Mulvey’s approach that people have to be helped, not criminalised.
“This is also consistent with the national policy position in the Programme for a Partnership Government which notes that the Government ‘will support a health-led rather than criminal justice approach to drugs use’, said Mr Duffin.
“We will never end drug use, but we can manage it much, much better.
“Treating people who use drugs from a health perspective rather than criminalising them for using is the correct approach.”
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