Drug officers seize 20 guns in 12 months
gardai are becoming increasingly concerned at a rise in guns being smuggled into Ireland with drugs shipments.
Two machine guns and automatic pistols were among 20 firearms seized by detectives from the Garda National Drugs Unit in 2014, the biggest haul for several years.
The increasing traffic in guns was highlighted as it emerged that gardaí seized drugs worth €62m in 2014.
This figure does not include the massive shipment of cocaine intercepted on the yacht Makayabella in September, as its value has not been officially recorded yet.
Some of the guns are being included with drugs shipments as "sweeteners" to seal a deal.
But others are being sought for protection in 'turf wars' or feuds over unpaid debts.
Officers say the drugs scene is becoming increasingly global, with big players now based overseas.
The drugs bosses have settled in Spain, the Netherlands, the UK and Portugal.
Irish gangster Christy Kinahan, who is well established in Spain, has become one of the top drug suppliers in Europe, but maintains close links with several gangs here.
Other Irish ex-pats who have built up lucrative connections overseas include associates of George 'The Penguin' Mitchell, accomplices of the notorious gang in the Drimnagh-Crumlin feud, and remnants of the John Gilligan gang.
Two leading gangland figures, who are both originally from the northside of Dublin and were believed to be responsible for the murder of Real IRA Dublin boss Alan Ryan, are also high on the priority garda watch list.
Another is a former Donaghmede-based gang, who deal in cocaine, herbal cannabis and heroin, and operate independently from Kinahan-controlled suppliers.
A big supplier on the Cork scene is also based in Spain and organising shipments for his associates.
The National Drugs Unit has also been active in seizing cash belonging to the gangs and uncovering the identities of facilitators, who are either storing or smuggling the money.
Officers say they confiscated up to €750,000 during 2014.