Martin Cahill bigraphy, stories - Criminals

Martin Cahill : biography

May 23, 1949 - August 18, 1994

Martin "The General" Cahill (May 23, 1949 – August 18, 1994) was a prominent Irish criminal from Dublin.

Cahill generated a certain notoriety in the media, which referred to him by the sobriquet "The General". The name was also used by the media in order to discuss Cahill's activities while avoiding legal problems with libel. During his lifetime, Cahill took particular care to hide his face from the media—he would spread the fingers of one hand and cover his face.


At age 16, he was convicted of two burglaries and sentenced to an industrial school run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Daingean, County Offaly. After his release, he met and married Frances Lawless, a girl from Rathmines, where his family was now living.

With his brothers, he continued to commit multiple burglaries in the affluent neighbourhoods nearby, at one point even robbing the Garda Síochána depot for confiscated firearms. The Cahill brothers soon turned to armed robbery, and by the early 1970s Gardai at the Dublin Central Detective Unit (CDU) had identified the Cahill brothers as major criminals, when they teamed up with the notorious Dunne gang in Crumlin to rob security vans escorting cash from banks.

Rise to prominence

In 1978, the Dublin Corporation began preparing to demolish Hollyfield Buildings. Cahill, then serving a four-year suspended prison sentence, fought through the courts to prevent his neighborhood's destruction. Even after the tenements were demolished, he continued to live in a pitched tent on the site. Finally, Ben Briscoe, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, paid a visit to his tent and persuaded him to move into a new house in a more upscale district of Rathmines.Paul Williams, The General, pages 35-37.

Cahill and his gang famously stole gold and diamonds with a value of over IR£2 million (€2.55 million) from O'Connor's jewellers in Harolds Cross (1983); the jewellers subsequently was forced to close, with the loss of more than one hundred jobs. He was also involved in stealing some of the world's most valuable paintings from Russborough House (1986)Paul Williams, The General, pages 95-116 and shaking down restaurants and hot dog vendors in Dublin's night club district.Paul Williams, The General, pages 201-210.

Tango squad

Fearing the increasing role that forensic science could play in detecting his robberies, in May 1982 Cahill had a bomb placed under the car of chief forensic scientist, Dr James O'Donovan, partly disabling him.

In February 1988, a Today Tonight report identified Cahill as the man behind the O'Donovan bomb plot, the Beit robbery and the robbery of O'Connors jewellery depot. As a result, PD leader Dessie O'Malley raised in the Dáil the revelations that Cahill owned such expensive property in Cowper Downs, despite having never worked, remarking that Cahill must have needed the extra wall space to "hang his artwork by the Dutch masters."

As a result, in December 1988 the Gardaí set up a Special Surveillance Unit (SSU), nicknamed "Tango Squad", to specifically target and monitor Cahill's gang on a permanent, 24/7 basis. Cahill was given the callsign Tango-1, making it obvious to Cahill and everyone who was looking where he went. They also placed a direct presence on the estate at Cowper Downs, positioning a surveillance unit in the home of developer John Sisk, whose house backed onto Cahill's. Showing signs of getting at the criminal, he ordered the slashing of 197 cars' tyres on one night, but after arrest on suspicion of ordering the crime, he returned home to find his own Mercedes-Benz smashed, with Gardaí waiting to advise him of his rights.

Lacey kidnapping

In early 1993, John "The Coach" Traynor met with his boss Cahill to provide him with inside information about the inner workings of the National Irish Bank (NIB) head office and branch at College Green, Dublin. Traynor told Cahill that the bank regularly held more than €10 million in cash in the building. The plan was to abduct NIB CEO John Lacey, his wife and four children and take them to an isolated hiding place. There, they would be held with fellow gang member, but acting as a "hostage" Jo Jo Kavanagh, who would frighten Lacey into handing over every penny stored in the bank's vaults.

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