Born in Dublin in 1942, he was educated at Gormanston College in County Meath and the College of Commerce Rathmines (now part of the Dublin Institute of Technology). He also studied economics at L'Ecole de la Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de Paris.
Martin has been one of Ireland's most versatile journalists, having been a leading sports commentator in his younger days in The Irish Press and the Irish Independent, sports editor of the Sunday Tribune and a columnist in the Evening Herald. Later he became Features Editor of The Irish Times, a columnist in that newspaper and afterwards a foreign correspondent who covered the two most important stories of the late 20th century.
As Moscow Correspondent of The Irish Times, he covered the collapse of communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As South Africa correspondent, he covered the rise of Nelson Mandela from prisoner to president, the dissolution of the apartheid regime and the arrival of democracy in South Africa. Later he became Editor of the electronic editions of The Irish Times, winning several awards, including the Swiss IP Top award as best international news site in 1998.
In the course of his career, his political views have moved from left wing to left of centre though he never supported ultra-left views. As an active Trades Unionist he has been a member of the London-based National Executive Council of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Cathaoirleach (Chairperson) of the Irish Council of the NUJ and "Father" of the Irish Times Chapel of the NUJ.
He remains vehemently opposed to those who try to tell the world that support for Nazism or membership of the SS is excused by opposition to communism. On this issue he has clashed in print in The Irish Times with journalistic colleague and controversialist Kevin Myers. Interested in modern languages he speaks Irish (Gaelic), French, Italian and Russian as well as English.
His novel Duggan's Destiny received favourable reviews in Ireland and the United States, notably from Kirkus Reviews. His memoir Good Times and Bad published by Mercier Press in 2008 has been a bestseller in Ireland and his TV documentaries Martin's Moscow and Time on your hands in Latvia have been widely shown on RTÉ television.
In retirement, he lives in Ireland and spends some months of the year in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France where he maintains a small house and a smaller vineyard. He continues to work occasionally as a freelance from Russia and elsewhere for The Sunday Business Post and the Irish Examiner as well as for The Irish Times, he has also contributed and has been interviewed on Russia Today.
His documentary series Death of an Empire on the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the New Russia won Gold at the 2012 "New York Festivals World's Best Radio Programs" Awards.
- Duggan's Destiny Poolbeg Press 1997
- Good Times and Bad (From the Coombe to the Kremlin- a memoir) Mercier Press 2008