A new 24-member armed regional support unit is to be set-up in the midlands to counteract the activities of organised criminal gangs in the area.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Dermot Jennings said the new unit, which will cover Westmeath, Laois, Offaly, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, had been asked by Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy to provide a high-level of protection to rural and urban communities in the north Leinster area.

The formation of the new unit follows a series of high profile public order incidents in the midlands over the course of the last 12 months.

More than 50 people are before the courts facing charges in relation to feud allegations.

The proposal to set up a special unit for the regions was also recommended by retired high court judge Mr Justice Robert Barr in the aftermath of the Abbeylara inquiry.

The new Regional Support Unit will be equipped with taser-guns, pepper-spray and other 'less than lethal' weaponry as also recommended by the Barr Tribunal report.

Commissioner Jennings said that even though Abbeylara and Co Longford was now the policing responsibility of gardaí in the Western Division, working out of Galway, the new unit in Mullingar would obviously be in a position to support gardaí in Co Longford if requested.

The Regional Support Unit based in the Midlands is the second new grouping of armed gardaí set up outside Dublin, the first one is based within the Limerick/Cork area and the next one to be set up later this year will be based in the west.