Murder inquiry starts after dissident republican dies

Declan Smith was ‘close associate’ of former Real IRA Dublin chief Alan Ryan

Gardai at the scene of the shooting outside a creche on Holywell Avenmue, Donaghmede, Dublin, last week. Photograph: Collins

Gardai at the scene of the shooting outside a creche on Holywell Avenmue, Donaghmede, Dublin, last week. Photograph: Collins

 

Gardai have begun a murder investigation following the death of a well known paramilitary figure who has succumbed to his injuries a week after being shot when dropping his child to a north Dublin crèche.

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

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

Gardai believe attack was well planned and the murders 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.

Despite sustaining a gunshot wound to the head last Friday morning, he survived and was treated at the scene before being taken to nearby Beaumont Hospital.

He had been in critical condition at the hospital for the past week and this morning it was confirmed he had died overnight from his injuries after never regaining consciousness.

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.

Smith and Ryan had abducted and beaten a member of an armed robbery gang from north Dublin not long before Ryan’s death and that group is being actively investigated by gardaí working on the theory that they shot Smith last week in a revenge attack.

Gardai 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.

Just before Ryan’s killing, both he and Smith clashed with the dissident republican leadership in the north. They 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 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.

“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 focussed 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 this targeted. He was found in a house in Saggart, south Co Dublin, with a gunshot wound to the leg last February.

The shooting was not intended to kill him and after a short period undergoing medical treatment in Tallaght Hospital he was discharged and made a full recovery.

However, he remained under threat from dissident republicans in 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 at risk from the same gangland figures who shot Ryan just over 18 months ago and gardai had warned him his life was in danger. He was also being threatened by the north Dublin armed robbery gang now suspected of his murder.

Having lived in the Republic since around 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.

Eddie Burns (36) was abducted and beaten before being found dead with serious head injuries in an area known as the Bog Meadows in Belfast. The second victim, 38-year-old Joe Jones was shot in the head in the Ardoyne area where both he and Burns lived.

Smith was one of a number of suspects for the killings which were believed to have been carried out by a group of men and was among three to have left the North for the Republic to evade the PSNI investigation.

A postmortem on Smith’s remains is due to be carried out later today by State Pathologist Marie Cassidy.