THE HEAD of a crime gang with connections to the drugs trade is one of the five men arrested by gardai in one of the biggest ever operations carried out in east Limerick, the Leader has learned.
The relative of a renowned drug dealer from County Limerick was one of four picked up in a series of simultaneous early morning raids this week in Pallasgreen, Doon and Caherconlish. The male, aged in his early twenties, is a familiar sight to locals as he drives a top of the range luxury vehicle.
The fifth person was arrested on Tuesday afternoon.
The men - arrested under organised crime legislation - can be held for a maximum of seven days and remain in garda custody. A small quantity of drugs was also found during the searches which has been sent for analysis.
The arrests come exactly a week after Chief Superintendent David Sheahan mobilised the armed regional response unit in east Limerick in response to farmers living in fear after three hay barn fires in a week in the Doon area.
It has been claimed in the area that the random arson attacks on highly-respected farmers’ sheds were reprisals for a stables near Pallasgreen, believed to have been used by criminals, burning down after the death of John O’Donoghue. Gardai have played down links to vigilantism. The 62-year-old died from a heart attack after he confronted intruders at his home.
One of the hay barn fires occurred a short distance from the late Mr O’Donoghue’s house in Doon.
This week’s operation was led by Chief Supt Sheahan, Inspector Luke Conlon, acting Bruff superintendent and Detective Inspector Eamon O’Neill with the assistance of the armed regional response unit, detective branch in Limerick, Bruff gardai, divisional search team including a sniffer dog.
Over 40 guards swooped in the early morning searches on Tuesday.
Insp Conlon said: “It was an intelligence led operation into ongoing criminal activity in the Bruff garda district. It is part of an ongoing investigation.”
The five, all in their early twenties, were being questioned in Bruff, Henry Street, Mayorstone and Tipperary Town stations.
The heavy garda presence in east Limerick and the arrests have been welcomed locally. Murroe farmer and ICMSA national council member, John Egan said the guards are doing the best they can to make sure it stops.
“I was in Pallasgreen last week and you could see the armed patrols and traffic corps. You can’t have people terrorising their own home area. There is a lot of fear - every farmer within a radius of 20 miles of Doon is concerned. Everyone will have to be on their alert, co-operate with the guards and keep them informed of what is gong on,” said Mr Egan.
Deputy Kieran O’Donnell praised the garda operation.
“I understand the anxiety of people living in rural east Limerick from the hay barn fires, thefts and burglaries that have taken place. I met with Minister Frances Fitzgerald on Tuesday evening and asked her to impress upon Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan the need for additional gardai in rural east Limerick which she gave a commitment to do,” said Mr O’Donnell.
Deputy Niall Collins touched on the murder of Garda Tony Golden.
“It brings home to all of us how gardai bravely risk their lives each and every day in the battle against crime,” said Mr Collins.