After two family health scares in one year, Ronan Keating could not wait for Christmas to come around so he could spend quality time with those he loves most.
He faced the “scariest experience of my life” in March when wife Storm was left temporarily paralysed with a rare spinal cord condition that could have left her unable to walk again.
Then, two months ago, the couple had to rush their four-year-old son Cooper to hospital with what was reported as a “mystery illness”.
The One Show host says his heart broke as he watched his “little fella” in distress, hooked up to oxygen.
He adds: “It was frightening. You’d give anything to get them back and healthy.
“You’d sacrifice anything to make sure your kids are OK.
“I’ve been through the process of going to A&E, and spending four hours in the waiting room, then spending two nights in the hospital, my heart just breaking, their little faces on oxygen.
Dave Benett/Getty Images for Ger)
“He just had a respiratory thing and was fine. It wasn’t anything serious in the end but it was serious enough that we had to go to A&E.
“The staff were fantastic, the way they look after the kids. But what us parents have to go through, it breaks your heart.
“We’re lucky, we’ve five great healthy kids, but especially at this time of year and after the year we’ve had, any little cough and you’re paranoid, it’s scary.”
The pandemic has sparked anxious moments for Boyzone star Ronan, 44, who welcomed his youngest child Coco into the world just four days into the first lockdown in March 2020.
But he says being stuck at home also meant he was able to share more in her first couple of years than his other kids.
As well as Cooper, he has three children with his first wife Yvonne Connolly – son Jack, 22, and daughters Missy, 20 and Ali, 16.
The Irish singer recalls: “I remember after Coco was born walking down Portland Street in London and there was not a car or person on the road.
Dave Benett/Getty Images for Hamley’s)
“It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever witnessed.
“The advantage of lockdown was that I was there with Coco every day, every feed, every bedtime, it was wonderful.
“But I think in five or six years’ time we’ll see the effects of these lockdowns on young children.
“We’ve noticed that her speech is delayed, she’s talking now but was a little later than Cooper. I think it was because she wasn’t socialising as much.”
Recently, Ronan was able to draw upon his hospital experiences when he visited one of the UK’s 12 Ronald McDonald Houses and met other families of poorly youngsters.
The facilities offer parents and siblings a place to stay close to children’s wards,
He also launched a playground made from recycled Happy Meals toys at the charity’s 59-bedroom house at Evelina Children’s Hospital in Central London, something that is close to his heart.
For the past five years Ronan and Storm have been building a zero carbon home – a way, he says, of making up for the CO2 he pumped into the atmosphere as he flew around the globe with Boyzone, and later as a solo artist.
The house, on the outskirts of London, harvests its own rainwater and waste.
He says: “I’ve spent a lifetime flying around the world and I’m not proud of that, it came with the territory of my job.
“So now I’m tying to make a difference as best I can with our home.
“We’re almost finished, every step of the way we’re trying to choose the most sustainable option.
“The house is off the grid, we’re solar powered, we’re using recycled water, we’re using air source heat pumps.
“It’s all those kinds of things, the floorboards are from naturally felled trees, the paint is the most sustainable you can come across.”
Ronan admits he was “uneducated about the environment” before meeting fashion designer Storm in 2011 while a judge on the Australian version of X Factor, where she worked as a producer.
He had split from Yvonne a year earlier after a seven-month affair with Boyzone back-up dancer Francine Cornell.
Storm, 40, grew up in Papua New Guinea before her family moved to a farm in Australia when she was seven.
Ronan says: “She’s very eco-minded, so she’s helped me get more educated about the environment.
“The eco-house was her idea, to have that sort of vision and make it a reality is phenomenal, I’m on her coat tails big time. She’s a great mother, businesswoman, creator, a designer, she brings all of those elements into everyday life.
“This house has been her pride and joy, she’s on-site 24 hours a day project managing. It’s been a very difficult process, and very demanding, but we’re nearly there.”
His oldest children Jack and Missy also live nearby. Missy is a model and actress who appeared in films Dark Touch and The Sea.
Ronan says he never tried to put her off a life in showbusiness.
He adds: “What the kids do they’ll do, you’ve just got to support them.
Brett D. Cove / SplashNews.com)
“I have a great relationship with all of them, when they’re worried they come and they talk to me. I’m always giving advice to Missy, she’s great, and Storm and her have a brilliant relationship.
“She can talk with her if she doesn’t feel comfortable coming to me and that’s wonderful.”
Speaking before the festive season, Ronan said he was looking forward to spending time with his loved ones.
The star adds: “That’s my priority, the best Christmas gift I can get is just to be at home with my family.”
He says the Keating Christmas is “very traditional”, with a few twists.
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Ronan adds: “Have you heard of a rum ball? It’s an Australian delicacy, rum, chocolate, biscuits, coconut, all rolled together in a snow ball. It’s gorgeous.” But he admits he leaves the festive lunch to Storm.
Ronan says: “I cook for the rest of the year. When you’ve got people and timings, getting the turkey right, I don’t want that responsibility.”
Storm is also better at buying Christmas presents. Ronan says: “She will think about gifts six months ago. With me it’s lastminute.com. Her presents are more thoughtful but I’m pretty good.
“I threw a pretty good surprise birthday party for her 40th this year.
“But I think I’ve done pretty well with her Christmas present this year.
“She’s never disappointed in my presents, but things have definitely been returned. Hopefully, I’ve got it right this year.”
As if there are no end to her talents, Storm also sang a duet with Ronan on his latest album Songs From Home.
He says: “We collaborate constantly, every day on lots of things, whether it’s the house, or a song or product. We’re the best team.”
- Ronan was speaking at the opening of the playground at Evelina House, which provides free “home away from home” accommodation for families of poorly children through Ronald McDonald House Charities. In December, McDonald’s donated £250,000 to RMHC to pay for 10,000 night stays for families.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.