Gang suspected as man shot at creche dies

Victim Declan Smith was suspected of two murders in Belfast

Declan Smith had been in Beaumont Hospital in a coma for the past week and died early yesterday. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill.

Declan Smith had been in Beaumont Hospital in a coma for the past week and died early yesterday. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill.

 


Gardaí have begun a murder investigation following the death of a well-known paramilitary figure who has died a week after being shot while dropping his child to a north Dublin creche.

Declan Smith, a 32-year-old originally from Belfast, was wounded outside the Little Rainbows Creche in Donaghmede at 9am last Friday as he dropped off his son.

He was shot in the face by a masked man while walking back to his car as other parents dropping their children to the creche looked on.

Gardaí believe attack was well planned and the murderers had accurate and up-to-date information on the movements of the victim, who had not long returned to north Dublin after going into hiding following a shooting last year.

He had been in Beaumont Hospital in a coma for the past week and died early yesterday.

He was very close to the leader of the Real IRA in Dublin, Alan Ryan, who was shot dead in September 2012 by north Dublin gangland figures that he, Smith and their associates were extorting money from.

Gardaí believe Ryan was on the way to see Smith when he was killed in 2012 and Smith was one of the first people on the scene in the immediate aftermath of the fatal gun attack.

Armed robbery
Both had abducted and beaten a member of an armed robbery gang from north Dublin not long before Ryan’s death and that group is suspected of involvement in Smith’s shooting last Friday.

Just before Ryan’s killing, both he and Smith clashed with the dissident republican leadership in the North. It accused them of failing to pass on money extorted from drugs gangs in the South on the pretence of being destined to fund the republican movement and demanded the money from them.

Garda sources said the sum demanded was several hundred thousand euro and that Ryan and Smith were either unwilling or unable to pay.

‘Serious problems’
“That obviously caused serious problems for them and they were both under a lot of pressure from their own long before Ryan was shot,” said one Garda source.

After the murder of Ryan in September 2012, the dissident republican leadership in the North became involved in a feud with some of Ryan’s associates, who they believed were too focused on personal gain when engaging in activities including extortion.

A number of men close to Ryan were shot in punishment-style attacks, with Smith one of those targeted. He was found in a house in Saggart, south Co Dublin, with a gunshot wound to the leg last February.

He remained under threat from dissident republicans as part of a feud over control of the leadership of the movement in Dublin, with Smith trying to take over from his dead friend Ryan.

He was also at risk from the same gangland figures that shot Ryan just over 18 months ago. He was also being threatened by the north Dublin armed robbery gang now suspected of his murder and gardaí had warned him his life was in danger.

Having lived in the Republic since about 2007, he was wanted by the PSNI in Belfast for questioning about two murders within hours of each other in March 2007. The killings were linked to the activities of the Continuity IRA.

Smith left the North for the Republic to evade the PSNI investigation.