Armed gardai launched a massive operation and arrested six people as part of a major investigation into an aggravated burglary gang this morning.
In raids which started shortly after 4am, detectives made the arrests in the rural south Kilkenny and Waterford areas.
It is understood that the arrested men only became involved in criminality after losing their jobs in the downturn.
The suspects – who are aged from their late 20s to their early 40s – are being held at three different garda stations in the south-east and are being quizzed under anti-gangland legislation.
It is believed the gang may have been responsible for 15 aggravated burglaries in the region over the past 18 months.
“These include armed robberies on pubs and businesses including |the armed robbery of a service station in Carrick-On-Suir, Co Tipperary,” said a source.
Many of the suspected gang members were unknown to gardai until they lost their jobs in the recession.
“These were all working people until the recession came. But they are now suspected of being involved in very serious criminality,” the source said.
“They turned to crime after losing their jobs - some of these crimes carry very stiff jail sentences,” the source added.
Among the most serious aggravated burglaries to occur in Co Waterford in recent times happened in September when a man was hospitalised after being assaulted during a shocking incident in Dungarvan.
The aggravated burglary occurred at Congress Villas in Dungarvan between 12am and 2am on Wednesday 26 September.
Four males entered a house and assaulted a male in his 50s.
The man had his finger severed and was also slashed in the face and body during the assault.
Other aggravated burglaries that occurred in the area happened at homes in St John’s Park andCherrymount and at the Carry Out in Kilcohan and an armed robbery outside the Bank of Ireland in Lisduggan - all in Co Waterford last December.