Two o'clock in the morning. The rain is falling softly on Dublin. Ronan Keating is driving down O'Connell Street when he stops the car, a shiny top-of-the-range Ford Sierra. For a brief moment, he is lost in a nocturnal reverie, in boyhood reminiscence. He points at a shop down Henry Street. No one is around to see the former Boyzone star relive a part of his past. It's like that scene from Once Upon a Time In America where Robert De Niro's character revisits the emotional terrain of his youth.
"I used to work there when I was a kid," Ronan says of his time in Korky's from 1992 to 1994. "Selling shoes."
In four hours, a private jet will take the former shoe salesman to Amsterdam and then on to Cologne, and finally Copenhagen, for various high-profile television shows. His wife Yvonne is fast asleep in the back seat. Back home in the Keatings' multimillion-euro home in Malahide their two children, Missy and Jack, are sound asleep too. Ronan Keating, a baby-faced Ewan McGregor with Sting's hair, as Julie Burchill once described him, is more Zen than ever before.
Ronan Keating
Click for (very) large version - I didn't have the heart to scale it down

This recent tranquillity, however, is hard-won. A tragicomic episode with ex-manager Louis Walsh threatened to destroy his peace of mind and possibly his career.
He faced into the raging tempest of Louis telling his chums in the Irish media, "Of course I'm happy Ronan hasn't done well." Ronan Keating was suddenly Ireland's bete noire. He never once, however, lost his focus or, more importantly, his self-belief.
In the end, after a mercifully brief dip, Ronan survived and came back better, bigger and stronger. There's no demonstrable reason now why Ronan can't be the biggest pop star to come out of this country ever, not least with the success of his new album, 10 Years of Hits.
"I cannot believe I am still here after 10 years," he says, "and I am happier now than ever. Even when certain people tried their best to knock me down, I got through it. I hope I can continue to make people happy with my music for another 10 years.
"This is the fastest-selling album of my career so far. I don't know figures worldwide just yet, but it's in the top 10 in most European countries and it's about to make a massive launch everywhere else, including, finally, launching in America, after a top 15 single there with LeAnn Rimes," he continues as Yvonne, behind us, dreams of her bed.
The Sleeping Beauty in the back seat constitutes a departure from the standard pop-star appendage: Yvonne Keating is most certainly not arm-candy with suitably fake tan/breasts/smile and sincerity to bring to glammy first nights.
Ronan's love for his wife is aroused not only by her beauty but by her emotional intelligence and feminine strength. He clearly adores her. That link was easy to identify, and a joy to observe up close and personal, two hours earlier at Shanahan's Restaurant on St Stephen's Green. They elaborate on the mutual learning process that saw them bringing out things in each other.
Ronan: "She made me tougher — which I needed."
Yvonne: "He made me a bit softer."
Ronan: "I used to get hurt regularly by people. If somebody said something about me, I used to get really upset. Yvonne has taught me to be a bit tougher with myself."
Yvonne: "When I met Ro, he was so nice to everybody, and everything was lovely, and he didn't see bad in anything. When he met me I was the exact opposite. I saw the bad in everybody. I was sceptical — a little bit more wary of people than he was. Over the last seven years I think we have just actually met in the middle. I am certainly not as hard and he is not as soft. I think we have brought out things in each other."
What Yvonne has done for him, Ronan  says, is make him realise what life is really about. He looks at the world differently since meeting her. And he talks as only a  father can about the first time he changed his son Jack's nappy and he "caught poo", as he describes it.
"My kids are my world," he says. "I would walk on hot coals — I would die for them. They make my life real.
"I would give up everything in the morning " he continues, "I would walk away from all of this if it ever affected my family. That is the God's honest truth. Fatherhood is the most rewarding thing I have ever been through in my life. To have kids is magical — poos and all!"
He was at Yvonne's side when both his children were born and clearly dotes on them — without, he says, spoiling them.

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