Now that he’s happy, he’s afraid of dy­ing young

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... - Re­becca Hardy

Ro­nan Keat­ing has a tat­too of a jig­saw puz­zle on his arm. Each piece bears the name of those he loves most. There’s “Mam”, who died from breast can­cer 19 years ago, “Storm”, his sec­ond wife, who saved him from the wreck­age of a failed first mar­riage, and “Jack”, “Missy” and “Ali”, his chil­dren from that 17-year mar­riage to child­hood sweet­heart Yvonne.

These five lives are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to Ro­nan’s. So much so that af­ter he pro­posed to

Storm (35) on a beach in Thai­land two years ago, he gath­ered his chil­dren to­gether when they re­turned to Ire­land to ask her, “Storm, will you marry us?”

When they wed in Scot­land four months later, Jack (now 18) was best man, Missy (16) the maid of hon­our and 12-year-old Ali the flower girl. “From the time we got to­gether, I knew this girl was the one for life for me,” says Ro­nan (40).

“I think Mam put her there. Mar­riage was in the back of my mind from very early on but get­ting the kids in­volved was im­por­tant. She wasn’t just mar­ry­ing me, she was mar­ry­ing my chil­dren.”

Now Ro­nan must roll up his sleeve to add an­other piece to the jig­saw: the name of his five-month-old son Cooper. “Lit­tle Coop’s a leg­end,” says Ro­nan, light­ing up.

“I could burst with love for him. Storm’s given me a beau­ti­ful lit­tle man. I’m feel­ing re­ally blessed. All my chil­dren are bless­ings. I love them to bits. They’re my world.”

Ro­nan – who shot to fame with boy band Boyzone in 1993 – is now co-host­ing a ra­dio show in Bri­tain from 6-10am ev­ery week­day. “And at 10am, I get to go home to our farm in Hert­ford­shire, and spend the day with Coop and Storm. That’s beau­ti­ful.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to watch­ing them grow up, which they’re do­ing so fast.

Ali was 12 the other week. It’s un­be­liev­able. As you get older, the clichés of life ring true. It’s the sim­ple things that mat­ter most: your fam­ily, the peo­ple you love, your health and san­ity.

“When you’re younger, you don’t re­alise it but...”

He pauses and, for a mo­ment, those mes­meric blue eyes of his stop danc­ing. “Mam died at 51. Steo died at 33,” he says, re­fer­ring to Boyzone’s Stephen Gately. “When young peo­ple die, it’s heart­break­ing. It’s still so hard to be­lieve. He was such a bright, shin­ing star.”

Ge­orge Michael’s death last De­cem­ber hit Ro­nan badly too. “He was one of the great­est artists of all time. He was my hero mu­si­cally and he be­came my friend. He was such a warm, gen­er­ous spirit. I sobbed like a baby when I heard.

“We’d had very sim­i­lar re­la­tion­ships with our moth­ers. I think it was one of the rea­sons we got on.” He shakes his head. “So very, very sad.”

When we first in­ter­viewed him too many years ago to count – be­fore Stephen’s death, be­fore Ro­nan’s af­fair with a back­ing dancer that sounded the death knell for his first mar­riage – he was a but­toned- up young man in a natty suit, and let’s just say there was a cer­tain cock­i­ness about him.

To­day, he looks as if he’s just walked off the beach, wear­ing a faded T-shirt and lots of bracelets. “The one that means some­thing is this love bracelet,” he says, show­ing us a sil­ver band around his right wrist. “Storm has one as well.

“They’re a night­mare in the air­port be­cause they don’t come off so they al­ways make the scan­ner bleep when you go through se­cu­rity,” he laughs.

“We just hope there are enough years in our life to en­joy each other. We can’t be­lieve we’ve found this love and the tragedy would be not to have the next 40 or 50 years to en­joy it. I can’t be­lieve some­one can make me feel like this. I just want to feel it for­ever.

“The fear is you don’t get to have all the years you think you have ahead of you. We work so hard with can­cer char­i­ties. You hear the sto­ries all the time and you just hope you have a long life to­gether.”

Ro­nan has al­ways been some­thing of a wor­rier.

He says he gets it from his mother – fol­low­ing her death, he es­tab­lished the Marie Keat­ing Foun­da­tion in her name – but we sus­pect it has more to do with grow­ing up in the blind­ing spot­light of fame.

Take when he was 16 and a re­porter asked him if he was a vir­gin. He should have told him to mind his own busi­ness. In­stead he said yes.

He ac­tu­ally lost his vir­gin­ity on the road as an 18-year-old. He didn’t dare tell a soul so re­mained Ro­nan Keat­ing, the nice, po­lite Catholic vir­gin from Dublin un­til he mar­ried his girl­friend Yvonne in 1998. Ev­ery­thing was man­u­fac­tured.

“Be­ing in a boy band, you’re not al­lowed to be good at any­thing,” he says. “You’re not al­lowed to be tal­ented. You’re not re­ally al­lowed to be a song­writer. You’re not al­lowed to be that good a singer. You’re just one of the guys who fills a suit, and that’s what’s drilled into you by the record com­pany and the man­age­ment.

‘Be­ing in a boy band, you’re not al­lowed to be good at any­thing’

“I get where that comes from but it takes time to shake it off. It’s only in the last cou­ple of years I can walk on stage and think, ‘I’m a good singer. I de­serve to be on this stage.’

“I have that con­fi­dence now, but I didn’t back then. None of us did. So it’s not just me, it’s all of us. That’s what we were made to be­lieve.”

He frowns, then smiles.

“It’s Storm that’s given me that con­fi­dence.”

Ev­ery­thing, it seems, leads back to Storm. She was work­ing as a pro­ducer on the The X Fac­tor Aus­tralia where he was a judge when they met in 2010.

Ro­nan was still reel­ing from the death of his dear friend Steo the year be­fore and his mar­riage was in trou­ble af­ter Yvonne found out about his seven-month af­fair with a back­ing dancer from Boyzone’s 2009 UK tour. “Storm un­der­stood,” he says.

“We were friends and that friend­ship led to other things a good 18 months later.

“She left The X Fac­tor to work on MasterChef Aus­tralia but we stayed in touch. I en­joyed her com­pany. She knew me and I knew her. It was that bond, that friend­ship.”

To­day, Ro­nan re­grets the un­hap­pi­ness he caused when his first mar­riage ended, but he doesn’t re­gret that it did.

He and Yvonne fi­nally di­vorced in March 2015 af­ter four years apart and he pro­posed to Storm on that beach in Thai­land the fol­low­ing month.

“I’ve never known love like this,” he says. “She’s my best friend. When I got my first movie role in God­dess in 2013, I didn’t think I would be able to do it but Storm said, ‘You can.’ Her be­lief in me gave me con­fi­dence and that opened so many doors.”

Next year marks Boyzone’s 25th an­niver­sary. There’s a new al­bum, which they hope to fin­ish in the next two months. “We were kids the first time around. Our testos­terone was pump­ing and we had our mo­ments of fight­ing with each other,” says Ro­nan.

“I was 16, a baby. I had a lot of grow­ing up to do and I did it in pub­lic. They were tough years but bril­liant too.” Af­ter six years and 16 Top 10 hits, they dis­banded in 1999.

“When we broke up, we were guilty of say­ing this and that about each other, but we were kids. There was a lit­tle bit­ter­ness but I think we needed to be apart.

“When we de­cided to get back to­gether in 2007, we met in a ho­tel in Dublin and had it out.

“It’s like fam­ily. When we’re to­gether now, it’s like we’ve never been apart. There’s just some­thing very spe­cial about be­ing in a band. I grew up with these guys. It’s like we’re a broth­er­hood.

“We re­alise what’s im­por­tant in life now – not sweat­ing the small stuff. We’ve all got things that are more im­por­tant in our lives than the band, so it’s not the be-all and end-all any more.” He touches the tat­too. “I am who I am,” he says. Which, fi­nally, makes him a happy man.

‘ I’ve never known love like this. She’s my best friend. Her be­lief in me gave me con­fi­dence’

A heart­bro­ken Ro­nan was a pall­bearer at the fu­neral of his band­mate and close friend Stephen (top).

Ro­nan has three chil­dren – Jack, Missy and Ali – wit h his child­hood sweet­heart and first wife Yvonne.

“Lit­tle leg­end” Cooper (above) and Ro­nan’s sec­ond wife Storm are the cen­tre of his world.

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