Gardai are hunting for a criminal described as a "volatile maniac" after he fired a number of shots into a house, terrifying children who live there.
It is understood that the family was targeted shortly after they had finished their Christmas dinner at their home in the Meakstown area of Finglas, north Dublin, at 7pm.
A number of windows were destroyed during the shotgun attack.
It is understood that gun shots heard in the same estate later that night may be linked to the earlier shooting.
Senior sources said that gardai have identified a chief suspect in the case and have been searching for the thug who is aged in his early 20s and originally from the Crumlin area.
No-one was injured in the shooting but sources said that the targeted family was left "very upset" and their "Christmas was ruined".
The Herald can reveal that the chief suspect is a very close associate of feared Crumlin thug Charlie Darcy, who is currently serving 12 years in jail for attempting to murder his brother-in-law.
Darcy (26), of Crumlin Park, Crumlin, was convicted by a jury in June 2009 of the attempted murder of Patrick Collins at Cooley Road, Drimnagh, on August 31, 2008. He was also found guilty of aggravated burglary.
The trial judge said Darcy had tried to assassinate his brother-in-law, Mr Collins, and only failed because the gun jammed twice.
Darcy also has previous convictions for his role in a riot at St Patrick's Institution on St Stephen's Day 2005, as well as biting and punching three gardai when they were arresting him for the attempted murder.
He also took part in a savage New Year's Eve attack on a south inner couple in which a shovel, crutch and boiling water were used and one victim set on fire.
His younger associate, who is being hunted for the Christmas Day shooting in Finglas, is considered to be even more violent than Darcy.
It has emerged that the thug is being investigated for credible death threats against gardai as well as a campaign of terror in the Crumlin area earlier this year in which a number of homes were fire-bombed.
An older associate of the reckless criminal was the target of an INLA extortion campaign in Tallaght in the summer of 2013, which led to viable pipe bombs being left at his home.
The young criminal has been involved in a number of brutal rows with criminals in the Crumlin/Drimnagh area this year.
During one violent incident, the rival mob brutally assaulted his father in a revenge attack.
Sources said that because of the threats on him in his home patch of Crumlin, the thug relocated to the Finglas area where he has continued to cause mayhem.
However, he has not been spotted around any of his usual haunts since Christmas Day and will be arrested on sight.