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Feud thugs held in armed garda raids as rival Maguire set for release from hospital

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Owen Maguire is expected to be released from hospital

Owen Maguire is expected to be released from hospital

Owen Maguire is expected to be released from hospital

Two men considered to be key players in the Drogheda gang feud were arrested during four searches by armed gardai in the troubled town.

The raids happened as the Herald can reveal that rival mob boss Owen Maguire is finally due to be discharged from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital this week after suitable accommodation was found for the paralysed gangster in the Co Louth town.

Maguire has been receiving treatment since he survived a feud-related shooting outside his home last July.

Senior sources say the fact that he will be back on the streets will "undoubtedly heighten tensions" and gardai are braced for even more violence when Maguire's close associate Cornelius Price is released from Wheatfield Prison in less than six weeks.

Yesterday's raids targeted the gang which has been at war with the Maguire faction.

The two arrested criminals, both aged 21, are key members of this mob and both are on bail over a savage assault allegation.

"With Maguire getting out of hospital, it was decided to let the other faction know that gardai are continuing to watch them," a source told the Herald.

"They were arrested in relation to intimidation offences."

Also raided yesterday was the home of a 24-year-old criminal who is considered the leader of the anti-Maguire faction.

His 21-year-old brother was being held at Dundalk Garda Station last night, with the other 21-year-old held by Drogheda gardai.

Operation

Gardai yesterday announced details of their search operation which led to the seizure of €5,000 of cannabis and cocaine, as well as a vehicle and a number of mobile phones which will now be analysed.

"As part of the ongoing investigation by An Garda Siochana in the Louth Division in response to the issue of drug-related intimidation behaviour in the Drogheda and mid-Louth areas, an extensive search and arrest operation took place in the Drogheda area," a garda spokesman said.

"A total of four residential properties were searched."

Owen Maguire was shot in the stomach and shoulder and also suffered injuries to both legs and wrists in the botched hit attempt shortly after midnight on July 5 last year, which left a bullet lodged in his spine.

The shooting inflamed the deadly Drogheda feud, which has seen dozens of violent incidents since, including shootings, pipebomb and petrol bomb attacks.

Last month, we revealed that Maguire refused an offer to move into a specially adapted local authority home because he feared that he would be whacked if he left hospital.

However, he is now believed to have taken up this offer, leading to a "security nightmare" for gardai who have had to keep a 24/7 armed presence at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital to protect staff and patients because of the criminal's presence there.

His older brother Brendan Maguire (40) was also treated in the same hospital following a drive-by shooting at the M1 Retail Park on the outskirts of the Co Louth town in February.