Dissident republicans have been accused of murdering two men in the North in summary execution-style shootings over alleged criminality.
Barry McCrory (35), was gunned down in a flat in Derry city centre yesterday morning, less than 24 hours after the body of father-of-four Kevin Kearney was found dumped in a lake in north Belfast. The 46-year-old had also been shot.
Both victims were known to police for previous offences.
The finger of suspicion has been pointed firmly in the direction of violent republican extremists who in the past have carried out attacks as a way of administering their own brutal form of vigilante justice.
With dissidents also intent on destabilising the peace process, it may not be coincidence that the murders come as Northern Ireland prepares to welcome more than a hundred business leaders to a major conference aimed at attracting overseas investment to the region.
Today's high-profile event in Belfast will be attended by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
One dissident group, which styles itself as the "IRA", has claimed responsibility for shooting Mr Kearney as he walked his dogs in Belfast's Alexandra Park.
The same group ambushed and killed a prison officer, David Black, when they opened fire on his car as he drove to work on the M1 motorway between Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Belfast in November last year.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said dissident republicans were behind the two latest killings.
Police are so far treating the incidents as two separate murder investigations, with early indications that the shootings are linked to localised criminality in the respective cities.
Mr McGuinness said: "Over the past 24 hours two men have been murdered in Belfast and Derry.
"I condemn these murders without equivocation.
"Those responsible claim to be dissident republicans. They are not republicans of any shade. They are entirely motivated by criminal intent."
At around 11am a man carrying a rucksack burst into a first-floor apartment on Derry's Shipquay Street and shot Mr McCrory. His partner was in the flat at the time and though uninjured had to be treated for severe shock.
Police have appealed for information from the public.
Mr Gilmore said the killings were "vicious, brutal and cowardly".