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It's no surprise gangs have got rocket launchers -- they will stop at nothing

The seizure of RPG22s should not cause any great surprise among senior gardai.

Officers at the force's headquarters were warned by me and some of my then staff more than six years ago that a search was underway on the parts of both the King Ratt gang and 'Fat' Freddie's crew to acquire grenades, which the informant labelled, as a codeword, "pineapple".

Chillingly, the informant also told us how they would be used. It was intended that which ever gang got them first, they would try to lure the other gang in large numbers to a pub and when all were assembled and settled a man would enter the property and throw a grenade into their midst.

Fortunately this never happened as there could have been huge loss of life. But tellingly, it was at this point that both gangs started drinking in the centre of the city in places such as Temple Bar and the south inner city. The simple reason for this was, and remains, that the amount of CCTV in those areas lessened the likelihood in their minds of being attacked.

When I was still in the service in the city centre, my Divisional Task Force officers would interrupt their gatherings by going into the pubs and clubs frequented and dispersing them. Simply put, it was a tactic to get in the face of these criminals and ensure that they could never get comfortable in one spot.

The intended victims were to be the remainder of the King Ratt gang, the outfit led by a jailed crime boss.

That's why I read with interest reports of Thompson's gang now acquiring rocket propelled grenades.

When we reported to Garda HQ about the original grenade information, we were not taken seriously enough and were told that there was no way they could get their hands on such items. But then the doubters were proved wrong when some of these grenades were found in various searches.

One must remember that there is a natural progression upward from the grenade to the RPG shoulder-held rocket launcher.

Let us just imagine if one of these gang members launched an RPG rocket from the base of the 'Spire' on O'Connell Street in Dublin firing it southwards. It would cause unbelievable damage, but the recoil would have blown the operator into the Garden of Remembrance, and memories would be all that was left of him.

Most of these gang members from both sides moved out of Ireland when the new gang-related legislation was enacted. 'Fat' Freddie's gang moved to Marbella on the Costa del Sol while King Ratt's boys went to areas around Alicante. They have nothing to do all day except plot and scheme about how to make the next million.

They started to use their female associates many years ago to convey the proceeds of their drugs trade to banks in Spain and other European locations.

So, as I began, let me reiterate that no one should be surprised about the criminal ingenuity of these low lives. They will deploy any weapon in their quest to make money out of mayhem on our streets.

There is more to come.

PJ Browne is a former detective superintendent with 38 years service. He oversaw operations against the feuding Crumlin crime gangs for a decade