GARDAI fear a fresh eruption of gang violence after the discovery of one of the biggest hauls of grenades in the State in the past two decades.
The 28 grenades were new and still concealed in the manufacturer's wrapping.
International inquiries were launched after it was established that the grenades came from Eastern Europe.
Officers found the bombs in a shed at the back of a house in a remote area on the Limerick-Tipperary border, between Murroe and Castleconnell.
Also hidden there were two submachine guns, two semi- automatic handguns and between 400 and 500 rounds of ammunition.
Anti-terrorist officers identified the faction responsible for importing the cache, which was discovered as a result of an ongoing operation rather than intelligence gathering.
Gardai said the haul represented a very significant step up in the weaponry being acquired by the rival gangs.
Since the discovery a week ago, they have been trying to determine whether the cache was offered to the gang as part of an overall deal involving drugs or if there had been dissident republican groups supplying their contacts to a network of international arms dealers in eastern Europe.
In the past, gardai have discovered evidence of connections between the gangs and members of both the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA.
Five years ago gardai organised an "arms sting" operation, which resulted in the arrest of two Cork men who had been attempting to buy a haul of firearms, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers on behalf of the Limerick gang opposed to those behind the latest smuggling haul.
Undercover agents were told that all of the weapons were needed for a war in Limerick between a named gang leader and his enemies.
Gardai said last night that last week's find had prevented a major escalation in violence in the city. "If you lob a grenade into a room, you kill everybody inside," one experienced officer pointed out. "This is a very worrying development as it adds a new and sinister dimension to the gang's capacity for violence and mayhem."
The garda crime and security section in the Phoenix Park is now heading up the inquiries into the find and Dublin-based officers are liaising closely with Limerick detectives .