West Dublin criminals are now using road signs for target practice in a brazen display of firepower that is worrying gardai and rural residents outside the capital.
A sign on the Lucan to Newcastle road is being examined by detectives after it was struck twice by shotgun blasts and riddled with 10 nine millimetre bullet holes.
Gardai in Clondalkin and Rathcoole are trying to establish if the shooting is the work of local criminals in west Dublin or a more sinister element from the capital using the area for target practice.
"The smaller bullet holes are 'face on' but the shotgun holes seem to be oblique," said a garda source. "They seem to have been made by a person standing to one side, either in the road or from a vehicle that was on the road."
"Discharging a firearm is a criminal offence," said a spokesman in the Garda Press Office. "Apart from the criminal damage to the road sign, we condemn the firing of guns so close to a public roadway and to road users."
The sign is located just four metres away from the grounds of Peamount Hospital where more than 400 patients and staff live and work. Visitors to the hospital use the road day and night.
Road signage staff at South Dublin County Council (SDCC) say this is the first targeting incident in the capital in decades. "We can't condemn this strongly enough," said Philip Murphy, senior executive for roads and transportation at SDCC.
"We will work with the gardai to try and identify those responsible. This is a stupid action and dangerous as well," he said. "This is a busy road, a lot of drivers use it."
"This is the latest in a series of gun incidents in Kildare," said Catherine Murphy, Dail member for the county. "It has spread like a contagion from the capital. If you remember the drugs problem in Dublin in the Eighties, it was confined to the inner city. But because it was not tackled, it spread outwards. This is the same kind of problem."
SDCC says that the road sign is still functional "so it will not be replaced until it wears out in a few years".