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Gardai have made a record seizure of methamphetamine in the first indication that criminals want to flood the Irish market with the killer drug.
In a joint operation with Customs officers, detectives from the garda national drugs unit intercepted two cars on a transporter in Birr, Co Offaly, and found six kilos of the drug.
"Crystal meth" or "ice" has ravaged drug addicts in the United States, Australia and Eastern Europe, but before yesterday it had not been seized in large quantities in this country.
Last year garda found a total of 10.2 grammes of the drug in five separate seizures.
The interception was part of Operation Chestnut, an investigation set up to target eastern European drug trafficking gangs and Nigerians who are focusing on the Irish market.
Chestnut has been under way for the past eight months and last November gardai from the national drugs unit made three arrests in Rathmines in Dublin following inquiries into international trafficking.
The latest seizure was made on Monday following co-operation between the gardai, Customs and several agencies overseas.
Gardai kept surveillance on the two vehicles, which had earlier been imported into the country by ferry through Dublin Port. Armed detectives stopped a transporter on the roadway in Birr. During a detailed search they found six kilos of methamphetamine and another eight kilos of herbal cannabis concealed in the two vehicles.
The driver of the transporter, a 39-year-old Lithuanian man, was arrested under the drug trafficking legislation and taken to Tullamore garda station where he was held for questioning throughout yesterday.
He can be detained without charge for a maximum of seven days under the legislation.
A senior garda officer said last night : "We are satisfied that this shipment was intended for the Irish market although we have no evidence at this stage of any connection to local drug trafficking gangs.
"This is the first time we have gathered any significant evidence of large scale usage of this drug here and we are surprised at the size of the haul," he added.
Gardai initially thought they had seized cocaine and herbal cannabis. But forensic analysis of the haul showed that it was methamphetamine.
After the Birr find, follow up searches were carried out in Navan, Tralee and Clonakilty.
But no other finds were made. However, inquiries into the Birr seizure were continuing last night at home and overseas.
Methamphetamine is highly addictive and can cause long term physical and mental health problems.
The drug is cheaper than heroin and cocaine and is more easily available in other countries as it can be manufactured in "backstreet" laboratories.
Drug experts say its use has spiralled over the past fifteen years and it is now the second-most common illicit drug in Australia, after cannabis.
About a quarter of users become psychotic and can be irritable, aggressive and hostile. In the longer term, it can increase the risk of heart attack, lead to chronic sleeping problems, depression, anxiety and paranoia, cause brain damage and dental problems.

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