Gardaí carried out a major search operation against two middle-aged brothers who are suspected of being behind attempts to poison horses and contaminate milk supply as part of a bitter campaign of intimidation, the Irish Independent can reveal.
The Garda operation targeting the brothers happened yesterday in Co Longford, but no arrests were made.
Senior sources said last night the bizarre incidents are part of an "escalating campaign of harassment and intimidation" against entirely innocent landowners who have been allegedly victims of criminal damage, arson and other criminal acts.
In the latest incident, thousands of litres of milk belonging to one of the alleged victims was contaminated with penicillin.
The incident late last month emerged when the milk, which was in a large container, was routinely tested and the discovery meant it had to be destroyed, leaving the landowner "severely out of pocket".
This followed an incident in late March when "rat poison was put in horse feed" in an alleged attempt to kill horses owned by the landowner.
If a horse ingests rat poison, it causes grave health problems as it causes the animal's blood not to clot and can lead to excessive bleeding and death.
It can sometimes take up to five days for the horse to display adverse symptoms.
"Thankfully the landowner noticed the pellets of rat poison in the horse feed - otherwise he could easily have had some dead animals on his hands," a source said last night.
"These are very serious matters, and that is why gardaí carried out a planned search operation in relation to what happened.
"This is very serious intimidation and it has been going on for years, but is just getting worse."
It is understood some evidence was seized during the raids on the two properties and this will now be examined by specialist gardaí.
The alleged campaign of intimidation began after two farmers bought land which the Revenue Commissioners had seized from the brothers due to unpaid tax bills.
The dispute has been the subject of ongoing High Court proceedings, as well as the lengthy Garda investigation.
Sources said the brothers allegedly at the centre of the intimidation campaign have links to cross-Border criminals, as well as criminal elements based in counties Longford, Roscommon and Sligo. One of the brothers is facing serious theft charges before the courts.
They have been the subject of a number of Garda searches in the past.
It is understood they have links to a cross-Border gang who have been involved in cattle rustling and the theft of plant and heavy machinery.
They have no involvement in the Longford feud, which has "eased off" considerably in recent months, with some of the main players now locked up in jail and because of the movement restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
"They have no interest or involvement in that feud at all," a source said last night.