The first Garda Armed Support Unit for Dublin, equipped with high-powered cars and modern firearms, has been launched to help tackle a surge in gangland crime, including the ongoing feud in the capital.

The 60-member unit is designed to provide a highly visible deterrent to criminal activity and is the first time the capital has had a designated Armed Support Unit (ASU). Comprising 55 GardaĂ­ and five sergeants, the ASU will provide a 24/7 overt intervention force in Dublin.

However, the unit which was set up in response to the Kinahan-Hutch feud, is meant to be directed by the Chief Superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) office – but that position is vacant. Instead, it has transpired that the DMR East Division Chief Superintendent is double-jobbing as chief for the unit.

The ASU vacancy has become embroiled in an escalating three-way dispute between the GardaĂ­, the Government and the Policing Authority on continuing senior vacancies.

There are six officers, five superintendents and one chief superintendent, on a list for promotion – but this list will expire at the end of December, when the promotion process is handed over by the Department of Justice to the Policing Authority.

The five superintendents have written to the Tánaiste saying they had a “legitimate expectation” of promotion and that the failure to do so will “cast aspersions” on their characters and affect their careers. They claim there are eight chief vacancies, with three more due by February. It has been reported in media circles that they have taken legal advice on their options.