Crime boss 'Viper' fights for life after gun attack
Notorious gangland figure Martin Foley shot five times in city ambush
By Don Lavery, Niamh Horan and Joanna Kiernan
Sunday January 27 2008
One of the country's most notorious criminals, Martin Foley, known as 'The Viper', was shot and seriously wounded outside a Dublin gymnasium yesterday afternoon.
Foley, 55, who has survived several assassination attempts in the past , was sitting in his car when between five and six shots were fired by at least one gunman.
He tried to drive away from his attackers and he is believed to have been hit several times in the chest, shoulder and lower body.
His car crashed a short distance away from the scene of the shooting.
It is at least the fourth known attempt on his life. He had been hit by 11 bullets before yesterday's shooting.
The shooting, which happened around 3pm near Ben Dunne's Carisle Gym in Kimmage, was the latest murder attempt on Foley who was an associate of Martin Cahill, 'The General'.
At least some of the attempts were carried out by the the Provisional IRA while others were by other criminal gangs.
The badly injured man was taken to St James' Hospital for treatment where he is in a "critical" condition.
Eyewitnesses outside the Carlisle Health and Fitness club in Kimmage, south Dublin gave their reaction to the shooting, shortly after the incident took place.
Brian Kelly, a local said: "At five past three I heard five shots. It sounded like a hand gun. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang -- really quick. Then, five minutes later the sirens were blaring and they took him away. I'm a regular in the gym and I'd always see him there. They must have known his routine, because he always goes on a Saturday."
Another eyewitness, who was on his way into the gym said he saw Foley being treated in the ambulance and believed he was conscious while receiving the treatment.
"I saw him in the back of the ambulance. The door was opened and he looked like he was talking. He didn't look like he was in pain. He was on a stretcher at the time. It obviously seems like he had a close call. He seemed relaxed and it didn't look like they were in any hurry to take him off."
Singer Dickie Rock who lives nearby gave his reaction to the incident. He said he felt sorry for the well-known criminal.
He said: "I'm came out for a walk to see what happened. It can happen anywhere.
"It doesn't matter where you live these days. I feel sorry for him, no human being deserved that."
The scene was cordoned off and there was a heavy police presence. As the garda forensics began their technical examinations, about 50 people were standing around.
The road was blocked off about 100 yards from Kimmage crossroads.
Gardai immediately sealed off the scene of the latest shooting as they awaited the the arrival of technical experts at the scene while a widespread search for the gunmen was launched.
Foley last survived an assassination attempt on his life at the swimming pool at Terenure College in 2000 when he was shot several times in the legs after being approached by two men on a motorbike when he was leaving the pool.
Mr Foley, who has served jail terms for robbery and other offences, was a close associate of Martin 'The General' Cahill.
In April that year the Provisional IRA attempted to shoot Mr Foley, but the attempt was intercepted by gardai.
Two other attempts to assassinate him were made in the 1990s.
Known as the man they couldn't kill, Foley admitted in a rare interview five years ago that he had been deeply affected by his encounters with his would-be killers.
"When you are are shot on three different occasions and you have 11 holes in your body, psychologically the thing is never going to leave you," he said.
"And you would react to certain situations where anything bad might happen."
However despite the attempts on Foley's life, who is in his fifties, he prided himself on a strenuous daily fitness regime.
Foley made legal history, when he was awarded €193,000 in a lawsuit against criminal-turned-supergrass Charlie Bowden.
Bowden admitted to the Special Criminal Court that he had loaded the gun which was used to fire on Foley outside his home in Cashel Avenue in 1995.
Foley later recalled the gun attack involving Bowden, saying he saw two two masked men one with a submachinegun. It had only been seven weeks since he was shot previously.
Foley said: "I had read a lot of books about survival. Well, about techniques to avoid being assassinated. I had the door unlocked in the car, I kept it open.
"It would be a bad mistake for anybody to stay in the car -- because if the car is put out of action, you're still stuck in the car.
"I jumped over a nearby back wall, into a house and up the stairs. The back door had been open.
"I could hear crackling. I later learned that one of the guns had jammed. As I was going up the stairs, I was shot in the back. I had the entry of a .45 bullet in the back and the exit in the stomach, through the lung and so on."
But Foley kept going in a remarkable escape, saying: "You're inclined to run a little bit fast when somebody is firing at you. I jumped feet first through a window."
Foley fell onto a flat first-floor roof. "I rolled down and jumped off. He was still firing out the back window."
He said of the gunman: "I knew I was going to survive. Sure he was a f**king eejit anyway. It didn't make a difference. He was after firing 50 f**king rounds and he still couldn't get me. Sorry -- it was 43 rounds, to be precise."
Foley became known in the 1980s as a spokesman for a group of Dublin criminals who clashed with the Concerned Parents anti-drug movement. They dubbed themselves the Concerned Criminals Action Committee.
Foley was kidnapped by the IRA in 1984 but was freed after a shootout between the IRA gang and gardai in the Phoenix Park.
At one time he survived two murder attempts in the space of four months.
He was shot in December 1995 by a gunman who approached him near Fatima Mansions, Rialto, and in the second attack in Crumlin he was ambushed in his car and hit in the back.
- Don Lavery, Niamh Horan and Joanna Kiernan