Detectives are investigating if a huge haul of weapons and bullets seized in a raid were due to be used in a "gangland spectacular" attack on close associates of a man who was shot last month.
Officers targeting an organised Traveller gang recovered a Makarov RAK submachine gun, a Skorpion machine pistol, five loaded magazines, a Colt Magnum, around 200 rounds of loose ammunition, more than 200 shotgun cartridges and a silencer in a high-profile raid in Finglas last Friday.
A monkey, nicknamed George by gardai, was also found in a cage when officers raided the site.
The Herald can now reveal that this Traveller mob had "extremely close links" to gangster Eric Fowler (34), who was shot dead in December after he was blamed for stealing €50,000 in cash late last year from his former associates.
"Fowler was regularly observed at that halting site in Finglas. He was spotted up there on numerous occasions over the years and even in the days before he was shot dead last December 22. He was part of their organised crime network," a source told the Herald last night.
Gardai have been probing whether criminal Lee Boylan (24) was the victim of a retaliation shooting last month after Fowler's mates blamed his associates for the pre- Christmas murder.
It has now emerged that in a tangled gangland web, Fowler's mob is suspected of enlisting the Traveller crime gang to target more associates of Boylan, who was left with life-altering injuries after being shot in a daylight attack while he sat in his van at Blakestown Road, west Dublin, on March 6.
"This massive arms cache was brought to Dublin from the south-east of the country - its intended use was an attack against Lee Boylan's associates," a source told the Herald.
"This could have been a so-called gangland spectacular, resulting in multiple deaths - and in particular a very close associate of Boylan, based in the Blanchardstown area and aged in his 50s, was being lined up to be killed.
"However, gardai who have been investigating the Fowler murder, and a number of murder attempts in the locality in the last few months, gained important information about the weapons in the days before the find."
Two brothers who are suspected of being key members of the dangerous organised gang which was the target of the search operation at the halting site at Ratoath Road, Finglas, were arrested at the scene.
The brothers, aged 30 and 40, were released without charge on Saturday after officers were initially not able to link them to the weapons, guns and drugs - which were not found in "any particular property", according to gardai - but a file will be prepared for the DPP.
It is understood the weaponry and ammo seized on Friday was actually hidden in waste ground on the site, meaning criminal charges could be difficult to obtain in the case.
One of the targeted Traveller mob's leaders is currently locked up awaiting trial for a massive cash seizure, while two other main players were busted with €220,000 of drugs cash in the Netherlands last year as part of a major operation by armed Dutch police in a suburb of Amsterdam.
The duo spent a number of months in custody in the Netherlands before eventually being bailed and returning to Ireland.
They are closely related to the suspects who were arrested in Friday's massive raid, which involved around 50 gardai, including armed officers.
The wider gang has been the subject of a number of operations by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), including a massive raid in Co Meath last November which saw officers seize €1.5m in cash.
Last month, the Herald revealed that the botched shooting on Boylan was carried out in revenge for the Fowler murder - which has been blamed on associates of Boylan, who have links to the Kinahan cartel.
While not considered a major criminal and not an actual suspect in the Eric Fowler murder, Boylan has links to dangerous gangland criminals with connections to the cartel, including Finglas mobster 'Mr Flashy'.
In May 2017, Boylan was one of four men allegedly linked to the drugs trade who had thousands of euro in cash confiscated after a customs seizure at Dublin Airport in February 2016.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that a total of €17,600 was found on the four men as they prepared to travel to Malaga, Spain, on one-way tickets.
Despite the cash seizure setback, Boylan's associates continued to be involved in the lucrative drugs trade in the Dublin 15 area of the city.
Sources say that this brought them into contact with Fowler, who also had close links to the Kinahan cartel and was also heavily involved in the local drugs trade.
Gardai believe that just weeks before his murder, some of Boylan's associates accused Fowler of stealing the massive narcotics cash haul and decided to have him murdered when he failed to pay back the cash, the sources said.
Meanwhile, the seized monkey was still being cared for by the DSPCA last night.