Gardai have carried out a major search for firearms in a field near the fortified home of soon-to-be freed gang boss Cornelius Price.
The Herald can reveal that officers from Ashbourne Garda Station carried out the search yesterday afternoon after receiving "reliable intelligence" that associates of feuding gangster Owen Maguire had hidden at least one deadly weapon at the location.
Our exclusive photos show gardai conducting a search at farmland not connected to Price, but near his compound in Gormanston, Co Meath.
Up to 20 members of the force, aided by sniffer dogs, searched the freshly ploughed area throughout the afternoon in search for a gun linked to the ongoing Drogheda feud.
The search party trawled through ditches and cut back vegetation using slash hooks at the field, while a number of armed gardai kept watch at the site's entrance.
A senior source confirmed that yesterday's search operation is one of several planned in the coming weeks ahead of Price's release from Wheatfield Prison in under a month.
It has emerged that the gangland brute is currently in isolation in the west Dublin prison after being disciplined in relation to drug activities there.
"This means that his privileges and access to other prisoners have been severely curtailed. He's very unhappy about this," a source said.
This is Price's latest scrape with jail authorities since he was locked up in 2017.
Sources said the 37-year-old had been using an illegal mobile phone to "issue threats left, right and centre" in the weeks before jail bosses decided to clamp down on his behaviour.
"He's coming out of jail in the middle of May and was letting it be known that he intends to be the top dog in north Co Dublin again once he is freed," a source said.
"He was issuing threats to other criminals in the Balbriggan area and in Drogheda."
Price's close association with the Maguire faction in the deadly Co Louth feud is causing gardai their biggest headache, and it is this link that led to yesterday's searches, although no weapon was found.
Tensions remain high in Drogheda after paralysed Owen Maguire (35) was discharged from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital over the weekend.
He has been receiving medical treatment there since surviving a feud-related shooting outside his home last July.
In the latest tit-for-tat incident linked to the gang warfare, a brick was thrown through the window of the home of a violent criminal's innocent grandmother in the early hours of yesterday morning.
That criminal is the leader of the anti-Maguire faction.
The elderly woman is the latest innocent victim of the Drogheda feud, which is expected to get worse when Price is released.
Gardai continue to carry out almost daily operations against the feuding mobs, including one on Easter Monday when they seized a handgun and components to make up to nine pipe bombs, which are linked to the Maguire faction.
Following an alert, gardai carried out a search of wasteland on the Moneymore Estate, where they found the gun and bomb parts.
The feud has been spiralling out of control since Owen Maguire was shot multiple times at Cement Road, Drogheda, in an attempted murder.
He was shot in the stomach and shoulder and suffered injuries to both legs and wrists in the botched hit attempt shortly after midnight on July 5, which left a bullet lodged in his spine.
In February, his brother, Brendan Maguire (39), was targeted in a separate shooting at the M1 retail park linked to the feud.
He was shot several times as he sat in his car, but survived.
Earlier this month, the suspected gunman and getaway driver for the botched shooting on Brendan Maguire were among four arrested by gardai but later released without charge. A file has been sent to the DPP.
Detectives expect that all these anti-Maguire criminals will be in the sights of Price and his associates when he is released.
Price is in the closing stages of a three-year jail sentence for reckless endangerment of a garda at Balbriggan Garda Station in 2014 following a trial at Dublin Circuit Court.
His mob is suspected of involvement in three gangland murders, and while not a suspect himself for any of those, Price's associates are chief suspects for the murder of Benny Whitehouse (36), who was shot dead in September, 2014.
The gang members are also the chief suspects for the murders of Tallaght man Willie Maughan (34) and his partner Anna Varslavane (21), who were last seen near Price's house in the Gormanston area of Co Meath on April 14, 2015.