Murders and manslaughters have soared by a third despite a fall-off in most types of crime, the latest figures have revealed.
Reported sex offences, burglary and fraud offences are also slightly up but there have been significant drops in the number of kidnappings, weapons offences and public order incidents.
There were 60 people killed in violent incidents last year, a rise of 15 on the previous year, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO). It is the first time in years that there has been a sharp rise in the number of homicides.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he was concerned by the trend, which he blamed on a wave of gangland killings during the year.
"The increase recorded during the last six months of 2012 reflects the consequences of gang warfare and I am pleased that charges are now pending in respect of a number of individuals," he said.
"In this context, it is important to acknowledge the considerable success the Gardai have had in bringing prosecutions and disrupting organised criminal activity, despite the many challenges faced by the Gardai in investigating these killings."
There was a spike in the homicide rate in 2006, when 138 violent deaths were reported in the State, but violent killings had dropped consistently since then, apart from a very small rise in 2010. The only regions to see a decline in homicide last year - which also includes death by dangerous driving - were the South and the West.
The CSO report shows a decline in deaths attributed to dangerous driving during 2012 - down to 18 from 21 - but researchers warned that not all Garda investigations are complete and that figure will also rise. Last year also saw a jump in sex offences, up more than 2% from 2,014 incidents in 2011 to 2,059. In particular, there was a notable increase in reported rape, up more than 6%, while sexual assault offences rose more than 5%.
Mr Shatter said the overall statistics are a timely reminder of the excellent work being carried out day in day out by gardai.
He said: "They provide clear reassurance that the various innovations and efficiencies together with essential reforms in policing introduced by the Commissioner (Martin Callinan) and being made by An Garda Siochana are in fact making a real contribution to public safety and the prevention of crime."