Nine gang suspects still being questioned

Nine men, arrested as a result of a major operation against drug and organised crime, are still being detained and questioned by gardai this morning.

The suspects, ranging in age from their early twenties to early thirties and believed to be part of a Galway-based criminal gang, have been held at garda stations in Galway, Tuam, Gort, Ballinasloe, and Loughrea since their arrest on Tuesday and questioned under anti-gangland laws.

The search and arrest operation, which is part of Operation Foolscap - one of the biggest ever operations against drug and organised crime in the west, began at 7am on Tuesday with gardai swooping in on 20 premises throughout Galway city and county.

Some of the houses searched by gardai are located in the Bohermore, Rahoon, and Ballybane areas. The offices of two solicitor firms, one based in the city and the other in Co Galway, were also searched. Items seized include four vehicles, mobile phones, computers, and documentation which will be examined by gardai.

The arrests were made for suspected offences under the Criminal Justice (Amendment ) Act 2009. A Galway Garda Station spokesperson confirmed at the time of going to press yesterday that the period of detention for six suspects had been extended and that similar requests could be made in relation to the three remaining suspects. The nine men are currently being detained under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007 which allows for a period of detention without charge of up to seven days.

Operation Foolscap is part of an eight-month investigation into organised criminal activity in the Western Region including drugs and firearms offences, intimidation, extortion, burglaries and robberies. Gardai from Galway were supported in Tuesday’s operation by the Western Region Regional Response Unit, officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, National Support Services and the Organised Crime Unit.

It is believed that members of a well-known Galway based family were at the centre of the probe. The local gang, which is led by two brothers and has links to other drug-dealing families in Limerick and Sligo, has been heavily involved in drug, firearms, burglary, and armed robbery offences across the west.

It is believed that this operation is also linked to the arrest of a man, a suspected member of the Galway gang, in Belfast at the weekend for drug smuggling offences.

Meanwhile, Galway West Fianna Fáil TD and former junior minister of Justice, Frank Fahey TD, commended the work carried out by gardai on Operation Foolscap describing it as a “significant achievement”.

Deputy Fahey said that the work carried out by all the agencies involved in the operation “often goes unnoticed by the general public, but work is being done all the time to foil professional criminals and the gardai are having a lot of success in foiling activities of gangs involved in crime”.

“Criminals and thugs such as the people who have terrorised households in Galway city and county over the past few months must be held to account and there needs to be tougher sentencing imposed to deter them from committing the crime in the first place.

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