| 14.7°C Dublin

Garda injured as gang chase ends in armed swoop

AN armed garda remains in hospital today after being struck in the face by a car door as four gangsters were arrested.

The member of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) received facial injuries after members of the McCarthy-Dundon gang were rammed off the road by gardai in Limerick.

The gang members, who were travelling in a Toyota Avensis, were in possession of a 9mm handgun and ammunition when they were struck head-on by members of the ERU at Drombanna, Ballyneety, Co Limerick yesterday.

Investigating officers believe they foiled an imminent gangland attack with the arrest of the three men and woman in Limerick. All remain in garda custody this morning.

It is suspected that the McCarthy-Dundon criminal gang were about to carry out an attack on a rival target in Limerick following Monday's attempted shooting of two gang members -- which resulted in a third man, Daniel Phillips, being severely wounded.

The drama unfolded at lunchtime yesterday after the gang members were tracked travelling through Ballyneety.

Members of the ERU were travelling against them in a jeep when they rammed the criminal's car towards the side of the road.

The gang members frantically attempted to drive off from the scene and a member of the ERU who was taking part in the major operation was struck by an open door of the rammed car.

With weapons drawn, in front of shocked motorists who were ordered to hide behind their vehicles, the armed gardai forced those in the car to hand themselves over. Two of those arrested received superficial injuries but did not require hospital treatment.

"It was crazy stuff -- they had their guns pointed out at them and were screaming at them to put their hands up in the air and to get down on the ground," a fuel delivery man at the scene recalled.

The ERU officer was rushed to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital where he was treated and underwent an X-ray.

He was kept overnight for observation and his condition is described as "stable" this morning. The scene was sealed off yesterday and the Garda Ombudsman is continuing to investigate.

Two of the arrested men are well known criminals from the Moyross area of Limerick.

They are related and have been to the forefront of the city's bloody criminal feud since it erupted. They have criminal convictions and have long held a personal grudge against members of the Keane-Collopy criminal gang.

It is understood they have both been under constant surveillance in recent months. The two men are attempting to gain complete control of Limerick's drugs trade on the northside of the city.

Another man arrested in the car is from the Weston area of Limerick and has associates heavily involved in the McCarthy-Dundon criminal gang. The woman under detention is a mother.

The arrests are regarded as a major coup for the gardai against organised criminality in Limerick.

The gun -- wrapped in tape -- was found in the back of the car. A cache of ammunition was found separately.