The young boy was munching on a bag of crisps after a trip down to the shops with his beloved father when his life was ripped apart.
And gardaí said it wasonly by the grace of God the 12-year-old boy wasn’t killed as well.
He was just feet in front of his dad as they walked home when he heard the first shot.
He turned to see a man, dressed in dark clothes and a balaclava, brandishing a gun and firing at least three more shots into the prone body of Declan O’Reilly.
Pedestrians on the quiet stretch of South Circular Rd, in Dublin’s south inner city, dialled 999 and tried to comfort O’Reilly’s son.
“It was particularly callous, with a 12-year-old child walking a few feet ahead of him,” said Supt Thady Muldoon, who is heading up the murder investigation.
He said the child was “eating crisps” as they returned home from the shops and was walking just “three to four feet” ahead of his father.
Asked if the child could have been killed, he said: “God forbid, but four to five shots were discharged.”
The close call came on the blackest imaginable day for children in two families.
Less than 12 hours earlier, two other children, an 11-year-old girl and a boy, aged three, saw Gerard Eglington gunned down in their home by a masked gunman.
The girl was Eglington’s partner’s daughter, while the boy was theirs.
The poignancy of the atrocity is revealed by photographs taken outside Eglington’s house in Kilnacourt Woods in Portarlington, Co Laois.
Abandoned outside the driveway, in the careless manner all parents can associate with, were manifestations of childhood — a toy horse, bicycles with stabilisers, a kiddy car, a child’s tractor and trailer.
It’s not the first time in gangland that children have seen their fathers gunned down and their innocence forever shattered. But two in one day is a new low in terms of collateral damage.
People across the country, particularly outside Dublin and Limerick, could be forgiven for glossing over the awfulness of what is happening on our streets, to our children.
They see criminal killing criminal, gang member gunning down gang member, interminable feuds between gangs that live lives far removed from their own.
That is except for those people living in these communities, who daily toil to live their lives, to raise families and be as good neighbours as they can.
Community leaders have warned that the time will come when an innocent child will be killed.
Supt Muldoon said Mr O’Reilly’s son was receiving all the help the authorities could give.
He also said specialist Garda child interviewers would be dealing with him.
And that’s the appalling reality now confronting that boy, and the children in Portarlington — having to revisit the horror and put words to their worst nightmares so guards can catch their daddies’ killers.
Assistant Commissioner Nacie Rice said shooting a man in front of children was “an act of depravity” and asked: “Where are we going as a society?” He said the “barbarity and cruelty” of these killers “knows no bounds”.
That’s the worry.
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