Justice Minister Alan Shatter has expressed both concern about growing crime and confidence in the Gardai (police) to crack down on it following two gangland murders in front of children of the victims within 12 hours.

Shatter said the killings showed that the gunmen had absolutely no respect for human life.

Both victims, Gerard Eglington and Declan O'Reilly, were shot dead in front of children.

Eglington, 27, was gunned down at 8 a.m. on Monday in front of his three-year-old son and 11-year-old stepdaughter in the quiet town of Portarlington, Co. Laois, 60 miles from his former Dublin home.

Heroin user O’Reilly was shot dead in Dublin at 8 p.m. that evening as he was walking home with his 10-year-old son.

Gardai do not believe the murders are linked. The victims were in gangs involved in separate feuds.

Shatter said the callousness of the gunmen showed that they lacked even a shred of humanity or decency.

He said that from discussions with Gardai, he was confident that they would continue to “bear down heavily on the activities of those involved in gangland crime.”

Fianna Fail has called on the Justice Committee of the Oireachtas (Parliament) to hold a special hearing on recent killings.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins suggested that Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan should also attend the special session.  

Collins said there was a fear that a sinister criminal element no longer feared the rule of law.  He said they were prepared to commit the most violent of crimes at any time of the day or night with no regard for the safety of communities.

Deputy Garda Commissioner Nacie Rice described the murders as acts of depravity.

He said that while violent crime was once again on the increase, Gardai would do all they could to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The barbarity, the cruelty, knows no bounds for some people. We as an organization are determined to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Rice said.

“It’s quite obvious that there’s a very, very small number of people who are so ruthless they have no concern for the rule of law, less concern for children or for anyone else around them.”

The association representing Garda sergeants and inspectors criticized cuts in Garda numbers and their budget. The association warned Shatter against any further cutbacks.

Gardai are satisfied that the murder of criminal Eglington is linked to a savage attack in a Dublin pub 18 months ago.

The victim, who had fled his usual haunts on the southside of Dublin to a quiet bolthole with his family in Portarlington, had been under a death threat since the attack.  He was warned five times by the Gardai in recent months that his life was in danger.

But his killer was still able to walk undetected into Eglington’s home at breakfast time on Monday to shoot him at least four times in the back.

Eglington’s partner, Crystal Nolan, had left the house to go to a local pharmacy and the gunman slipped in through the unlocked door while an accomplice waited outside in a car.

Senior Dublin-based detectives with knowledge of the 11-year-old feud behind Eglington’s murder recalled that it has already caused more than a dozen deaths.

Eglington was regarded as a “marked man,” and had survived an attempt on his life in a pub shooting while another plot to kill him at the Passport Office in Dublin was also botched.

As a 15-year-old, he was detained in a juvenile detention center for four years for being a passenger in a stolen car which was deliberately driven into the back of a Garda vehicle, killing Gardai Tony Tighe and Michael Padden, on the Stillorgan dual-carriageway in April 2002.

Declan O’Reilly, from Crumlin, Dublin, was murdered 12 hours later on the South Circular Road in Dublin. His 10-year-old son was walking just ahead of him when the attack happened.

A gunman got out of a nearby car, fired a number of shots from a handgun at O’Reilly and was then driven from the scene. The car was later found on fire a short distance away.

While O’Reilly was associated with gang members who have been involved in a feud between rival factions in Crumlin and Drimnagh in Dublin for more than a decade, Gardai believe his murder may have been linked to a prison death.

O’Reilly stabbed Derek Glennon, 24, to death in Mountjoy Prison in 2007. He was acquitted of murder after he said it was self-defense.

Gardai believe his murder this week may have been in revenge for that prison killing.

The Monday night scene on South Circular Road in Dublin where Declan O’Reilly was murdered.Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland