Two 14-year-olds involved in a row in Ballymun produced handguns to settle the dispute only to pass the weapons to children as young as five to hide when gardaí arrived on the scene, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

The incident occured last month, on Ballymun's Coultry Road, two gangs of teenagers became involved in a row over the sale of drugs in the area.

Youngsters from the Balcurris area in Ballymun were attempting to take over the sale of heroin, cocaine and cannabis from teenagers on the Coultry Road area.

"It started out as a straightener [fist fight] but then the two lads went off and came back with handguns a couple of minutes later. The Balcurris gang were trying to take over the Coultry Road gang's drugs patch because the leader of that gang has just gone to prison," said a local source, who witnessed the incident.

"They pulled out the guns in front of each other. I couldn't believe what I was seeing – they were only about 14. Then some of the lookouts noticed a garda patrol car and the two lads calmly handed the guns to these little kids who walked off with them to hide them somewhere up the road.

"It was unbelievable, I can't believe it's come to this. The sad thing is, those five-year-olds' dream is to grow up and be just like the fella that handed them the gun."

When gardaí arrived on the scene, the weapons were gone and nobody was arrested, as officers did not witness what had happened.

Fr Peter McVerry, a social campaigner who works with drug users and homeless people in Dublin, is also aware of the incident.

"What is the world coming to when 14-year-olds have access to guns to settle a row and then use children to hide the weapons from the gardaí?

"It seems like they were prepared to use their guns except that they were interrupted.

"In one way, I'm not that surprised. If you're living in that subculture, you have access to drugs and guns," he said.

"The danger is that the more younger children are getting involved in this kind of behaviour, the less they think of the consequences. There is not much holding them back at that age."

The main dealer controlling the drugs trade in the Coultry Road area is a well-known criminal from Finglas who gardaí believe is responsible for ordering several murders in the past two years.