GARDAI believe one of Ireland's top criminals ordered the gangland hit on convicted drug dealer Greg Lynch, which left three female bystanders with gunshot wounds.
Last night Lynch (28) was in a coma in hospital after a bullet shattered his jaw and lodged in his head.
Three women who were attending a birthday party were also shot as the hitman fired indiscriminately into a crowd of innocent people while fleeing the scene.
One of the women was still in hospital last night, while the two others had been discharged.
Gardai said that the indiscriminate gunfire could have resulted in multiple fatalities.
Investigating officers think the murder attempt on Lynch is linked to an ongoing row between the victim and associates of the top criminal.
A previous attempt to murder Lynch, a convicted heroin dealer, was also planned last December – but this was abandoned after a botched surveillance operation by his would-be attackers. The gang leader who is thought to be behind the shooting is regarded as one of two men who masterminded the murder of Real IRA faction boss, Alan Ryan.
And he is also responsible for drugs distribution on the northside of Dublin.
Lynch was gunned down as he stood on the street at Hanlon's Corner, linking the North Circular Road and Old Cabra Road, at around 2.30am yesterday.
He had been attending a 21st birthday party in Hanlon's pub and the gunman was waiting for him when he emerged on to the street.
The hitman fired from a semi-automatic handgun, hitting Lynch in the jaw.
As Lynch fell to the ground, the gunman ran across the road and then opened fire indiscriminately into a group of other party-goers, who were also outside.
All three received injuries to their hips or thighs, and were taken to Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown and St James's Hospital.
Two of the women, named as Lauren O'Brien (19), from the south inner city, and Pauline Lynch (33), from Ranelagh, were discharged yesterday.
The third female victim, Sinead Carey (28), from the south inner city, was still being detained last night for treatment to her wounds.
Gardai said the scene was chaotic when they arrived at Hanlon's Corner early yesterday.
One officer said: "The injuries to the three women were the result of absolutely indiscriminate shooting.
"It was pure luck that no one was killed. To shoot into a crowd of people outside a pub can only be described as reckless," he added.
Gardai stressed that the three women were innocent victims, who had been caught up in the gunfire.
Meanwhile, the intended target, Greg Lynch, was rushed to the Mater Hospital in a critical condition with the bullet lodged in his head.
Last night, his condition was said to be serious as he lay in a coma in the hospital.
After the shooting, the gunman ran across the road to a light-coloured saloon car that had been parked there by an accomplice, and they made their getaway on Prussia Street.
Last night, forensic experts were examining a partially burnt-out BMW car that was recovered in the Crumlin area of south Dublin which detectives believe is linked to the shooting.
Junior government minister and local TD Joe Costello said he was astounded at the news.
"It is absolutely shocking that it should happen in this neighbourhood.
"The indiscriminate nature of the shootings highlights the murderous intentions of the culprits. That a 21st birthday party should end in such a brutal fashion is unacceptable in a civilised society.
"Gardai must ensure that the perpetrators of this terrible crime are brought to justice quickly and that the local community is reassured that gardai are in control of policing in this community," Mr Costello added.
The area was cordoned off as forensic officers carried out a detailed examination of the scene.
Lynch is known to gardai as a drug dealer, mainly on the southside of the city.
Originally from the Oliver Bond flats complex, he has been living at a number of addresses in the south city in recent months.
He is believed by gardai to be linked to associates of Christy Kinahan, who is regarded as a major drugs supplier to the British and Irish markets, operating from his base in southern Spain. Kinahan is currently under investigation by a number of police forces.
Lynch was arrested by members of the garda national drugs unit after the seizure of a haul of heroin near the Red Cow in south Dublin in 2003 and was subsequently convicted in 2004 and jailed for eight years, with two years suspended.
Tom Brady, Sam Griffin and Emma Jane Hade