Belfast dissident fights for life after being gunned down in Dublin street
A high-profile dissident republican is fighting for his life after being shot in the face as he dropped his son off at a creche.
Witnesses said Declan Smith cried "don't shoot, don't shoot" moments before being gunned down in a Dublin street.
The 31-year-old is originally from north Belfast but has been living in the Republic since fleeing there in 2007 following a double murder.
He had just dropped his child off at Little Rainbow's creche in Donaghmede when confronted by a lone gunman at 9am yesterday.
A number of parents dropping toddlers off saw the man lying and rushed to shelter children from the bloody scene. The shooting took place on Holywell Avenue, a residential area.
"He was lying on the ground. When I turned him over his face was practically gone," a witness said.
Paramedics battled to save his life at the scene.
Smith, known as 'Fat Deccy', was a close associate of Real IRA terror leader Alan Ryan.
Ryan was shot dead in September 2012. Smith was later thrown out of the organisation and was targeted in a so-called punishment shooting in Saggart, Dublin last year. The mother of the child Smith was dropping off to the creche is a cousin of Ryan.
Gardai believe Smith was singled out by a criminal gang based in the Priorswood area of Dublin.
Sources claim Smith was targeted as revenge for a brutal kidnapping of another gangster. Both men were accused of savagely assaulting the senior member of the rival group in an attempt to steal guns from him. Ryan was murdered weeks later.
The witness told how they administered first aid to Smith yesterday: "A woman ran up to me and said that someone has been shot. I've been in situations before where someone has collapsed with a heart attack so I went over to help. He was lying on the ground. He was gasping for breath, so that's why we turned him over, to get his face out of the pool of blood."
Smith was rushed by ambulance to Beaumount Hospital where his condition remains critical.
He is is wanted by the PSNI investigating the gruesome murder of two men in Belfast in March 2007 which was linked to the Continuity IRA dissident group.
The body of Eddie Burns (36) was found with head injuries in the Bog Meadows, close to the M1 motorway in west Belfast.
The second victim Joe Jones (38) was shot in the back of the head in the Ardoyne district where both men lived.
Burns and Jones were murdered by a CIRA gang who were captured on CCTV drinking heavily and taking drugs in bars in the west of the city just hours before the murders.
Burns was abducted and shot dead by the gang close to the Falls Road, while Jones was lured to Elmfield Street in Ardoyne where he was badly beaten before being killed with a spade and his body dumped in an entry.
Three men suspected of involvement in the murders fled to the Republic.
The shooting is the latest in an upsurge in gun crime which culminated in drug trafficker and Veronica Guerin murder suspect John Gilligan fleeing the Republic last week after he was shot on March 1. His associate Stephen Dougie Moran was shot dead last Saturday in Lucan.