Martin “The Viper” Foley was a Dublin criminal and at one time part of Martin Cahill’s gang, he has survived 5 assassination attempts and has 14 bullet wounds from those attempts. Foley has 40 convictions for various criminal offences including armed robbery, burglary and assault.
Originally from Derry, in Northern Ireland Martin Foley was one of five children whose parents moved south and settled in the Crumlin area of Dublin, where he still lives. Foley started working as a tyre fitter in his younger years, he was regarded as a rough diamond built a reputation as a capable street fighter in his teens in the 1960s.
Foley was first arrested aged 16 and was given the Probation Act for being drunk and disorderly. At the age of 17 years he was convicted of robbery and receiving stolen goods. His first convictions in a long criminal career.
He first met Martin Cahill when Cahill’s family moved into a house on Captain’s Road in Crumlin when Cahill was 11 years old, Foley was 9 years old at the time. Their friendship endured until shortly before Cahill’s murder in 1994.
Towards the end of the 1960’s and early 1970’s as the Troubles were beginning in Northern Ireland, the Gardai (Irish Police) were stretched to the limit, using the majority of their resources. Organized crime started to take hold in Ireland, Cahill’s gang including Martin Foley took advantage, committing armed robberies of cash vans, factories and other businesses with payrolls or items with a good resale value. In one such robbery more than £90,000 was stolen from a van delivering money to a supermarket in Rathfarnham, in south Dublin.
In 1983 Foley and Cahill were key figures in a 10-man gang that stole more than £2 million in gold and jewels after taking staff hostage at gunpoint at O’Connors Jeweller’s in Harolds Cross in Dublin. The scale of the theft was staggering at the time, O’Connors was a high security building, which the IRA considered an impossible job. The robbery helped make the gang one of the Gardai’s top priorities.
By 1984, Dublin was in the grip of a serious heroin epidemic, this led to a group of parents, community activists and eventually the IRA setting up an action group called Concerned Parents Against Drugs, the group would identify and march en masse to drug dealers houses and demand, sometimes by force that the drug dealer leave the area. The group accused Cahill, Foley and the rest of the gang of being drug dealers. This led to Cahill and his associates to set up a counter movement, Concerned Criminal Action Committee, the group, sometimes led by Foley, would march on the homes and harass members of the parents group. This led to tensions rising between the groups but eventually a truce was called between the two groups.
But in March 1984 Foley was abducted from his home by an IRA gang, he was bundled into a van, handcuffed, tied and beaten, however a neighbor had witnessed the abduction and called the Gardai who located the van and followed it to Dublin’s Phoenix Park where a shoot out between the Gardai and the IRA broke out before Foley was eventually freed.
As the Gardai were fighting a losing battle with organized crime and being embarrassed with the antics of Foley, Cahill and the rest of the gang, they put all available resources into taking the gang down or at the very least stemming the criminals operations. The Gardai set up Tango Squad, who put the entire Cahill gang under 24 hour surveillance, even sitting outside their houses. They would harass the gang, stopping and searching them as they left their homes and then repeating a few hundred yards further down the road. With the constant surveillance tensions flared, in one incident during a stop and search Foley assaulted two Garda, breaking one of their jaws and pointing a loaded crossbow at another.
He was jailed for two years for breaking the Garda’s jaw, he had to be extradited from the UK, after he fled there. His trial was held at Dublin’s Special Criminal Court, which has no jury and members of the public are not permitted. The Special Criminal Court is where gang members and members of terrorist organizations trials are held. He served his sentence in Portlaoise Prison, Irelands maximum security prison. While in the prison he shared a cell with another associate, Seamus “Shavo” Hogan, Hogan would be accused of snitching by Cahill who organized for Hogan to be beaten by up to 30 prisoners, even cutting the tops of his ears, to symbolize a rat. This accusation was never proven, Cahill at this time had become very paranoid, however this would lead to Foley and Cahill falling out. Cahill was murdered in 1994.
The first assassination attempt on Foley came in 1995 when he was shot at by a gunman while he was near Fatima Mansion’s complex in Dublin’s Rialto area. Fatima Mansions was one of Dublin’s most deprived area’s, residents knew it as a heroin supermarket. Foley was shot in the arm and stomach but survived.
He was shot again in 1996, this time in the back and finger, it is believed that John Gilligan had ordered the hit on Foley, he accused Foley of spreading rumours that he was selling heroin, the rumours were heard by the IRA which caused some problems for Gilligan.
In another assassination attempt in September 2000 Foley was ambushed after leaving the swimming pool of Terenure College in Dublin and shot in the ankle. The bullet traveled up his leg and exited at his kneecap. Foley became involved in a gang feud in the Crumlin area over the earlier Terenure College hit in 2000. This resulted in another attempt on his life, in January 2008, he was shot and wounded several times outside the Carlisle Health & Fitness Club in Kimmage, south Dublin. Again he survived, however, those behind the attack were involved in a separate gang feud, which has since run its course, the main players are either all dead or in prison.
Foley has kept a low profile since then, in an attempt to go straight and put his past behind him, Foley opened a debt collection agency, using his Viper nickname. The business would later close but it appears he has continued in that work.