Loaded gun found as gardai intercept suspected hitmen
Two suspected Dublin hitmen are in custody after being hired to carry out a shooting as part of an ongoing feud.
The pair, from the Swords area, were driving along the N4 when they were intercepted by members of the armed Emergency Response Unit (ERU).
A loaded Makarov pistol was recovered after gardai searched the car in the Rathowen area of Westmeath on Tuesday night.
The men, one in his 20s and the other in his 30s, are being held at Dublin garda stations under firearms legislation.
Gardai believe they were enlisted by a Longford-based Traveller gang to carry out a hit on a rival faction in Longford on Tuesday night before they were stopped.
The target of the foiled hit is understood to be a member of a family based in the Edgeworths- town area, which has been embroiled in a bitter feud with a rival gang.
A source said the involvement of Dublin criminals could lead to an escalation in the violence.
"The two men are believed to have been hired to carry out the job before they were intercepted. They are simply men for hire," the source said.
"The handgun was loaded when it was recovered, and due to the imminent threat to life the ERU were required to carry out an intervention.
"A Traveller gang in Longford are suspected of having hired them to target a specific individual linked to a rival family."
It is suspected that a recent assault may have led to an escalation in a dispute between both families, resulting in the attempted hit.
A garda spokesman said: "Detectives in Blanchardstown investigating organised crime activity in that area conducted a policing operation on Tuesday, which led to the arrest of two males from the Dublin area.
"They were arrested with the assistance of the Emergency Response Unit in Rathowen, Co Westmeath.
"A fully-loaded semi-automatic Makarov handgun was recovered in the vehicle."
Gardai in Longford are investigating more than 50 violent incidents in recent months linked to the feud involving families.
Homes have been searched after criminals posed with firearms for so-called "call-out videos" which were circulated online.
The extreme measure of banning drinks inside Longford courthouse was enacted recently over fears that an acid attack would be carried out during a sitting.
During the summer, a bottle containing a corrosive substance was discovered in an abandoned car, along with two balaclavas.
A number of shootings, arson attacks and serious assaults have been carried out as part of the dispute, which has seen 26 arrests as part of a major offensive by Longford gardai against the gangs.
In an unusual development rarely seen in Irish feuds, women have also been enlisted to carry out shootings.