A boat gardaí believe was carrying a large consignment of cocaine has run aground off Co Wexford, with gardaí searching the waters on Monday night.
The Irish Times understands a number of people who were rescued from the water have been arrested and were being questioned in a Co Wexford Garda station on Monday evening.
The vessel got into difficultly late on Sunday night near Blackwater and the rescue and surveillance operation continued into the early hours of Monday as the weather was so poor. Two men on the boat were eventually winched to safety and on to a Naval Service vessel.
It is understood the trawler had been in Irish shores for some time and had docked in Co Cork at one point, before making its way from there late last week along the south coast, then tracking towards Co Wexford where it ran aground. Its final destination was not clear, though may have been Britain.
While the surveillance operation involved the Garda and the Naval Service, which deployed the LE William Butler Yeats to the scene, the intelligence sharing operation that resulted in the trawler being tracked involved an international component. That level of cooperation is common when international vessels suspected of trafficking drugs, at times in tens of millions or even above €100 million, are being monitored for long periods.
While gardaí suspect the vessel was carrying a very large consignment, checks to determine the exact cargo on the boat were frustrated by bad weather. In the past, some vessels suspected of carrying very large consignments of drugs, and which got into difficulty, were found to be empty when they were final inspected.
Defence Forces personnel, including the Naval Service and Army Ranger Wing, remained involved in the search operation on Monday as the waters were combed for cargo that may have come off the vessel. That search, over a very large area, also involved fixed wing aircraft.
In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, said: “As this is a live operation, An Garda Síochána has no comment at this time.”
The rescue operation involved both lifeboats from the RNLI and a Coast Guard rescue helicopter. It is understood personnel on the Naval Service vessel were tracking the suspect trawler as part of a Garda-led operation and that Garda members were also on the Naval vessel. The army ranger wing special forces were deployed to help secure the evidence and the vessel.
The waters around the boat were being monitored in a bid to determine if any cargo, possibly bales of drugs, had been lost and were floating in the sea.
The searching in the area continued on Monday, though the bad weather had persisted and the vessel itself had still not been inspected.