Ex-Coast Guard worker arrested over gun seizure linked to Drogheda feud
A man who has worked for the Irish Coast Guard was arrested by gardaí over a "hugely significant" firearms seizure linked to the Drogheda feud.
The man, aged in his late 30s, was still being quizzed last night at Drogheda Garda Station after his arrest at 3.45pm on Monday as part of a major surveillance operation.
Gardai discovered a holdall bag containing three handguns, assorted magazines and various ammunition when they raided a premises in the centre of Drogheda.
The operation was carried out just over three hours after €1.4m worth of cocaine was seized when officers intercepted a vehicle at the Donore Road Industrial Estate in the Co Louth town.
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Detectives believe that both busts are linked to the so-called anti-Maguire faction in the ongoing warfare which has led to two murders.
A 29-year-old suspect arrested in the drugs case is based in the Laytown area of Co Meath and senior sources say that he had close links to drugs trafficker Richie Carberry (39) who was shot dead outside his Bettystown home last week.
"The arrested 29-year-old is an individual it is believed has acted as a logistics manager for a major drugs-trafficking organisation," a senior source said.
"It's suspected he is high enough on the pecking order that he has been supplying drugs to both the Maguire side and their rivals.
"He is a non-descript type of fellow but is said to be hugely trusted in criminal circles. Gardai had been watching him for some time - he was fairly close to Carberry.
"The two arrests on Monday happened during the course of five searches over 18 hours and they are considered some of the most significant since the garda investigation, codenamed Operation Stratus, began.
"It will be the anti-Maguire side who will be suffering the most today," the senior source explained.
After the 20kg of cocaine were seized on Monday, gardai also raided a property linked to the 29-year-old later that night, where they recovered €25,000 of cannabis.
Further searches yesterday morning failed to yield any more illegal items.
Gardai believe that the handguns and ammunition seized in their second operation were being stored there by the anti-Maguire mob so they could potentially be used in gangland attacks.
The coastguard worker who was arrested has been described as "squeaky clean" in terms of criminal convictions and may have been used by the criminal gang because they considered that he was not on the garda radar.
But sources say that officers have been "closely watching" his movements in recent days and were ready to pounce on Monday afternoon.
The massive investigation was welcomed by Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll who was speaking in Dublin at an event yesterday.
"Well, my first comment is to congratulate the gardai involved. For every successful operation, I know from experience, there will be many, many unsuccessful operations," Mr O'Driscoll said.
"It's hard work trying to get the success involved here and it's a significant credit to the local drug unit in Drogheda and to those who support them.
"I spoke two weeks ago about another significant drug seizure in the border area of €3.4m of drugs seized, and as I spoke about that two weeks ago I mentioned prior to that another seizure of drugs in Meath which had an international connection with the Netherlands," he said.
"Clearly [this is] evidence that we are having an impact by constantly targeting these organised crime groups and I think again when we get the assistance of all those who have information about drugs, we can have an even greater impact," Mr O'Driscoll added.
"The taking of these drugs out of circulation in the border and removal of firearms makes the area a safer place for people to live in and that is our ultimate aim.
"It's an early stage in the investigation so where precisely it would have been sold is a matter that may be disclosed so I'm not in a position to comment on that.
"What I can say is the use of cocaine is very problematic and the level of increase in use has risen as the economy has improved.
"It keeps the crime gangs in business, so again it is an indication of how the general public need to realise their own role in tackling organised crime and these criminals.
"While they sell drugs, some of them [also] engage in causing serious injury to people and indeed murdering people on occasion."
The murders of Richie Carberry last week and Keith Branigan (29), who was shot dead outside a caravan park in Clogherhead, Co Louth, on the afternoon of August 27 last, have both been linked to the Drogheda feud.
Members of the Maguire faction have been investigated for involvement in both gun slayings.
The feud which has seen dozens of bomb attacks, assaults and garda seizures has been spiralling out of control ever since a botched gangland hit which paralysed crime kingpin Owen Maguire (36) in July of last year.