GARDAI plan to use air power in a bid to catch a criminal gang behind a crimewave which left a personal friend of the Taoiseach in hospital.
Regina Sweeney, the wife of a garda detective, suffered a cracked cheekbone during a violent robbery at her home in Co Mayo. A 10-hour search for the gang's powerful getaway car failed to snare them.
Garda chiefs in Mayo and Sligo have now asked for the use of a garda helicopter.
The Limerick-based criminals responsible for more than 40 aggravated burglaries over the past two months have been making their escape using a powerful Subaru Legacy which can reach speeds of up to 260kmh.
The Irish Independent has learnt that more than 40 garda checkpoints – many of them using armed officers – were put up across west Sligo and Mayo the weekend before last. It was the first weekend in two months when there were no aggravated burglaries in the area.
But similar operations last weekend didn't succeed as the gang returned to the counties, culminating in the attack on Mrs Sweeney at her home near Castlebar.
Gardai plan a similar operation this weekend and have asked for back-up from one of two of the force's helicopters.
"We don't have the patrol vehicles to catch this gang; it's as simple as that," said one senior garda.
"These people are a danger to other road users as well as to home and business owners and capturing them in a safe and controlled manner by road only is no longer an option.
"We need air support if we are to bring this to a successful conclusion."
Mrs Sweeney's father, Liam Coady, was the Taoiseach's driver when he was in opposition and passed away two years ago.
More than 20 garda patrols spent 10 hours hunting her attackers and spotted the getaway car on four occasions, but were unable to stop it.