A former rates collector, in the 1970s Foley successful ran the Central Ballroom in Ballybunion and the ballroom of the Brandon Hotel. He also had an interest in the Hillgrove Hotel in Dingle at one stage, and had extensive property holdings in Tralee.
Foley was a member of Kerry County Council from 1979, and was first elected to Dáil Éireann in the 1981 general election. He retained retained his seat thriugh three general elections until his defeat at the 1989 general election to party rival Tom McEllistrim, Jnr (who, unlike Foley, was a supporter of the then-leader of Fianna Fáil, Charles Haughey). He was then elected to the 19th Seanad on the Industrial and Commercial Panel, and regained his Dáil seat at the 1992 general election, holding it until he retired at the 2002 general election. His daughter, Norma Foley (a member of Tralee Town Council and Kerry County Council) unsuccessfully sought the Fianna Fáil nomination to contest the seat in 2002, but was selected for the 2007 election, when she did not win a seat.
Following revelations that he had held an offshore account with Ansbacher bank to avoid tax, he resigned from Fianna Fáil on 9 February 2000, becoming an independent TD. He had previously resigned from the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (on which he had been involved in the questioning of an official of the Ansbacher bank in which he held an undeclared deposit) and in May 2000 he became the first TD to receive a penalty for breaching the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 when he was suspended from the Dáil for 14 days.