A JOINT task force has seized more than two tonnes of cocaine in what is the largest drug seizure in Ireland's history.
The drugs, with an estimated value of €157m, were intercepted off the coast of Cork on Tuesday aboard the Panamanian-registered ship, the MV Matthew.
Three people have been arrested after the Army Ranger Wing stormed the vessel in an operation involving the Irish Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána and Revenue and Customs.
It is believed the drugs were destined for Ireland and Europe, with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee describing the seizure as 'a blow to the organised crime gangs involved in drug distribution internationally'.
Gerry Harrahill, Director General of Revenue and Customs, told a press briefing today that the expertise of all the organisations involved was vital to the success of the operation.
"We have removed the product from the vessel and it is now in secure storage," he said.
"I can say that the weight of cocaine involved is 2,253kg and the value is €157m.
"Each of the agencies brought their own expertise, knowledge and assets to the table and the combination of that is what contributed to the success of this operation."
He added: "I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that what we have managed in terms of the product that we have now secured, is that we have removed the possibility at least for destruction and devastation to families, to individuals and communities by ensuring that this product doesn't get onto the streets.
"In all of the excitement and discussion, it's important to remember that this is about people and trying to keep them safe and keep them secure."
The seizure was the first time Revenue and Customs had used provisions set out in the Customs Act 2015 that allows members of the Defence Forces to act as customs officers.
This allowed the Army Ranger Wing to board and secure the vessel after warning shots fired by the Naval Service went unheeded.
The operation also involved the assistance of international agencies, including America's DEA, Britain's NCA and Europe's Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Narcotics).
Justin Kelly, Garda Assistant Commissioner for Organised and Serious Crime, highlighted the importance of this support in the fight against drugs.
"This is the largest drug seizure in the history of the state," he said.
"This is a hugely significant operation and it shows our unrelenting determination to disrupt and dismantle networks which are determined to bring drugs into our country.
"These groups are transnational groups, they are working all across the world and because of that we need to work with our international partners.
"This particular operation demonstrates that type of cooperation that we had."