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HE'S A MARKED MAN; Ireland AM star Cagney tells of his anguish at losing wife and fears for his kids.

Byline: By PAUL MARTIN

TV star Mark Cagney has overcome the horrors of losing a wife and drug addiction.

But the popular Ireland AM presenter has revealed his darkest fear - losing one of his children.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Daily Mirror, the father of four, 48, revealed: "I have coped with my first wife dying and I have overcome drug problems in the 1980s - but one thing I could never deal with is losing a child.

"When my first wife died it was devastating and I've talked about my drug problems in the past and the impact they had on my life.

"Now I have four kids though it's a completely different kind of emotion and fear. Could I cope with losing a wife again? If I had to then, yes, I suppose I would because I'd have to be there for the kids.

"But could I cope with losing a child? I doubt that. I have been to a funeral of a young child and seeing that tiny white coffin being lowered into the ground is the most painful experience you could imagine.

"When my first wife Anne died in 1991 of a brain haemorrhage I had all the money I could spend and a great lifestyle - I was 35 and she was 38.

"The whole thing still haunts me to this day but you learn to rebuild your life and move on.

"The haemorrhage came from nowhere and it was devastating. But there was nothing left unsaid between us and we had 14 great years together - something a lot of people don't even get."

As the smooth-talking TV3 morning favourite Mark is the man that Ireland has enjoyed waking up to for the past six years.

He has been the one constant face on the show after several changes in the line-up.

Former model Amanda Byram was the first to share the screen with him.

After moving on she was replaced by gorgeous Claire Byrne and now pretty Maura Durrane is the co-host.

Mark has just been nominated for the O2 Personality Of The Year category in the Irish Film And Television Awards - and is joint favourite to collect the gong along with Sky News' Grainne Seoige.

And while he has become a household name the star revealed he has no desire to hang out at showbiz parties.

Instead he turns his attention to family duties of changing nappies and raising his children - Gerard, 12, six-year-old Sophie, Daniel, three, and one-year-old Mary - with his wife Audrey.

He said: "I just don't do the showbiz scene thing at all - it's never appealed to me in the slightest.

"When I go home I get stuck into all the elements of family life. Of course I change nappies and all that - I came from a big family. I've been happily married for three years to Audrey and we've been together for over 10 years before that.

"My family is really my full-time job and that's what keeps me busy when I'm not working on Ireland AM."

Mark is reluctant to talk about his past drug problems. But he knows that as his children grow up the day will come when he has to confront the issue again.

He said: "One day I, as a responsible parent, will have to warn them about the dangers of drugs.

"I suppose one good thing to come out of my experiences is at least I can say, 'Look, I was there, I know what it's all about and it's not worth it'.

"I will tell the kids that I'm giving them this advice because I love them, not because I'm trying to ruin their fun and hopefully they will take it on board.

"Every parent will have to go through that at some stage.

"But when people ask me to go into what happened in the past with drugs I don't talk about it much anymore because you can't win.

"The only thing I really have to say about drugs is don't do them. I can't make it any simpler than that."

Through his success on Ireland AM Mark has reluctantly had to accept his high level of fame.

He said: "I never ever thought I would be famous or wanted to be famous.

"I wanted to be successful and good at what I did. The drive was never to be well-known. Fame means nothing. It means you can't go out of the house looking scruffy but that's about it. But I don't mind people coming up to me if they are nice. Every now and again you get someone acting like the idiot but it's very rare.

"One night I was in line for the cinema with my son. There was a couple of guys in front of me and they started shouting out, 'There's that w***er from TV'.

"I knew they were spoiling for a fight but there was nothing I could do because I was standing there with my 10-year-old son.

"In other circumstances I would have taken them on - it wouldn't be in my nature to let it pass. But I had to let it go.

"If people don't like what I do then they can switch off the TV but there's no call for being abusive to someone like that, no matter who they are."

DESPITE his gruelling 3am starts Mark has plenty of energy left for his biggest passion - hitting the gym.

He said: "I am a health freak. I go to the gym three or four times a week. I do cardio and weights.

"When I was younger I smoked heavily until I was 25 - I was smoking 60-a-day.

"Now it's an integral part of my working day. I finish the show at 11am and go to the gym."

-TO vote for Mark as Personality Of The Year text TV to 53799 or visit www.iftn.ie

CAPTION(S):

FIGHTING FIT; Mark goes to gym four times a week after work; RISE: Former colleague Amanda Byram; SHINE: Mark and Claire Byrne; CO-HOST: Maura Durrane
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 21, 2005
Words:1010
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