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'An all-consuming, disempowering terror came over me' - artist Michael Mulcahy

Michael Mulcahy's house in Waterford burned down last September, with the artist asleep in the mezzanine. Michael - whose father died in a fire in 1989 - and his partner Vera Whelan tell Barry Egan about the trauma they went through, plus the incredible story of how they first met

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Artist Mick Mulcahy and his partner Vera photographed in County Wexford.  Photo: Mark Condren

Artist Mick Mulcahy and his partner Vera photographed in County Wexford. Photo: Mark Condren

Before the fire

Before the fire

After the fire

After the fire

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Artist Mick Mulcahy and his partner Vera photographed in County Wexford. Photo: Mark Condren

In June 1989, Bernie Mulcahy died in hospital of third-degree burns after a fall by the hearth of the fireplace at home in Helvic, Co Waterford. He was 96 years of age.

His son Michael, now 68, says he thought he'd "had enough of crucifixion by fire." An artist of some note internationally, Michael is talking metaphorically. Yet there is a very real pain at the heart of his words, spoken not at his home in Co Waterford but at a farmhouse in the wilds of the Wexford countryside.

On September 6 last year, Michael and his partner Vera Whelan could have been burned to death in a fire that engulfed their house in Helvic. "My father died because of a fire and I thought I was going to go the same way." Casting his mind back to that night, Michael says it is "a sense for me, as opposed to remembering clearly, as Vera does".