A rocket launcher seized yesterday in the Republic was the same as one used by the Real IRA in an attack on MI6 headquarters in London 10 years ago.
Two loaded rocket launchers were seized by gardai yesterday, both of which were capable of destroying an armoured van or the homes of feuding gangsters.
The disposable launchers, seized along with a cocaine shipment, can be discarded after being used only once.
It is the first time gardai have found rocket launchers in the possession of a criminal gang. The seizure marks a significant upgrading of the type of weaponry now available to the drug traffickers.
The rocket propelled grenade used to attack MI6 — which can penetrate up to a metre of reinforced concrete or armour — did not cause much damage because the windows of the building were heavily reinforced.
The rockets, fitted with warheads, were last night taken away by Irish army bomb disposal experts to the Glen of Imaal in Co Wicklow to be made safe.
The weapons had been stored by a major Dublin south city crime gang in a rented shed located at the rear of a block of industrial units at Straffan, Co Kildare.
Armed officers raided the premises at 9.30am yesterday. As well as the rockets, they found an AK assault rifle and 9kgs of cocaine with a street value of between €700,000 and €800,000 (£600,000-£700,000) hidden inside barrels. The raid was part of Operation Lamp, which was targeting members of a drug gang based in the Crumlin area of Dublin.
Senior officers believe the gang had purchased the cocaine from one of the biggest suppliers to the Irish market — a Crumlin-born criminal who fled to Spain more than two years ago as the gardai moved in on his operations.
The criminal, who is in his early 30s and has convictions here for assault and possession of a firearm with intent to rob, has been supplying shipments of drugs to his former associates in south Dublin since establishing himself in Spain.
Some of the suspects have loose connections with one of the gangs involved in the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud.
Gardai were last night trying to establish if the shoulder-held rockets were to have been used against a rival outfit.
The weapons were notoriously difficult to fire on target when in the hands of terrorists during the Troubles.