A heroin seizure with a potential street value of more than €5m has been linked to a prime suspect for the murder of Real IRA boss Alan Ryan.
The drugs had been stashed in a derelict house in Garryross, outside Virginia, Co Cavan alongside an Uzi sub-machine gun and a handful of bullets.
The gun and ammunition may have been stored at the site for several years.
Forensic tests on the heroin last night confirmed that its purity was high and its initial value of €1.3m could be boosted fourfold by mixing it with chemical agents before selling it on the street.
Gardai believe the nine-kilo haul had been stashed by a major crime gang, with roots on the northside of Dublin.
It is believed the alleged leader of the gang is one of two prime suspects responsible for the Ryan killing .
Real IRA boss Ryan had been shot dead near his home in north Dublin last September.
Garda officers seized the drugs on Monday following an intelligence-led operation but the details were not released until yesterday for operational reasons.
Further searches were carried out in the rural area yesterday and the derelict house remained sealed off as local gardai were joined by specially trained drug sniffer dogs.
The size of the seized haul was said by senior officers last night to have dealt a serious financial blow to the traffickers.
Gardai explained that drugs gangs were now using derelict houses and remote bogland to hide their shipments rather than risk a gang member being caught with a large haul in his home.
They said the gangs avoided areas used by hillwalkers and tried to find hiding areas that could be used for storage for a number of weeks before the shipment was divided up and prepared for street sale.
Heroin prices have soared as a result of a poor crop in Afghanistan, caused by bad weather and disease.
Gardai expect this will force the dealers to use an increasing amount of mixing agents to maximise the number of deals from the shipments they are bringing in and they fear this could result in serious health problems for users.
A previous crop failure in 2009 led to dozens of heroin addicts being admitted to hospital with serious illnesses.
The Cavan find has now been removed to garda headquarters in Dublin for technical examination.