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Monday 22 September 2014

End of an era as Yvonne looks to pastures new

TV star to sell mansion bought with ex Ronan Keating

Published 29/12/2013 | 02:01

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Yvonne Keating
21 Feb 2011  General view of Ronan & Yvonne Keating's new home. Abington, Malahide, Co. Dublin.  Picture: Caroline Quinn
Ronan and Yvonne Keating's home in Malahide.

It's the end of an era for Yvonne Keating. And the start of a new life, however painful initially, for the beautiful ex-model and TV star. . .

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She is selling the family home she bought in the first throes of love with former husband Ronan Keating. The asking price €2.5m.

The family mansion in the plush Abington estate in Malahide comes to the market on January 16.

It's a bittersweet transition for Yvonne.

She and then-husband Ronan Keating bought the site seven years ago and she poured her heart and soul into the property, which was finally completed five years ago, just before their marriage fell apart.

They had bought another grand house in Abington in 2003 but decided to go bigger again with Yvonne designing what was to be their dream home. It was, as we all know now, a dream that was to turn into a nightmare.

Bad memories or not, Yvonne is definitely staying in the Malahide area. She has started to look at houses already in the swish coastal suburban town for herself and her three kids -- Jack, Missy and Ali -- to live in. Yvonne is looking forward to the challenge of finding a new project to design herself.

She spent the Christmas in the house with her children. Ronan called over on Christmas morning to spend the morning with them. Yvonne's boyfriend of two years, John Conroy, had Christmas dinner that night with Yvonne and her family. They had turkey and ham with all the trimmings "and three different types of potatoes and starters".

Next weekend, Ronan will take the kids for the weekend with his girlfriend Storm Uechtritz (their joint Twitter account is certainly surreal and you have to wonder how Ronan and Yvonne's kids feel to see their dad so publicly loved-up with another woman who isn't their mother).

Yvonne, meanwhile, flies to Iceland to meet up with her boyfriend. John, a cinematographer, is shooting a movie there.

You can tell by all this that Yvonne and Ronan have kept a modern friendship of sorts since their high-profile and heart-wrenching marriage break-up in November 2011. They told their kids in early 2012 and officially announced it through this paper a few months later. Yvonne rang me to tell me that she and Ronan wanted the story out.

Despite Ronan's entanglement with dancer Francine Cornell, Yvonne has never said a bad word about the pop star she married on a Caribbean island in 1998.

"Even when I was going through really hard times, I was determined I wasn't going to be that person who is defined by this," she told me in an interview in the Sunday Independent's LIFE magazine during the summer, referring to Ronan's dalliance with the dancer that broke Yvonne's heart -- and their marriage.

"You know -- 'This is my life now'. I was really determined on my worst days that I wasn't going to become bitter and cynical. I wish Ronan and Storm every happiness."

On the morning of July 7, 2013, LIFE magazine printed the interview with Yvonne about her husband's other woman, and I received this text from Ronan Keating. "Really disappointed Barry. After all the years and everything I did for you. I was always told not to trust you and those people were right. I fucked up but I know I am a good person. I've dealt with my mistakes. But you... you probably don't even realise you are a prick."

I understand Ronan's anger, his bitterness. At the time I felt like texting him back a bit of Mark Twain ("Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.") but of course now I realise why he was livid about his wife opening up about the death of their marriage.

Or about the fact that when asked did she, in hindsight, see the affair coming, Yvonne revealed: "No. No. I was on the Orient Express for my wedding anniversary two weeks before -- the day Gerry Ryan died -- and we both sat there talking about how fragile life was and how we couldn't believe how Gerry passed away. Two weeks after that, I found out," Yvonne said, referring to the affair with Francine.

"We were about to move into our new house [the same house Yvonne is putting on the market in two weeks] so, no, I didn't see it coming."

I have to say that Ronan is a very likable person, a good person, as human as the next guy. We had some great times together over the years. It is difficult not to warm to him -- even when he is calling me a prick. I know in his place I would have called him the same. I wish him nothing but good for 2014.

Clearly, Ronan didn't want his wife to go into detail about the breakdown of their fairytale marriage (the unexpected opening-up by Yvonne about her marriage perhaps sealed her sway over the nation). But the interview was never planned that way.

It was supposed to be a harmless chat about Yvonne on RTE's Celebrity Masterchef and then it took a will of its own and it turned into a four-and-a-half hour emotional outpouring in a Malahide restaurant about grief, pain and hurt. A lot of hurt. Yvonne said that it wasn't necessary for her own healing to forgive Francine because "I never blamed her", adding that when they met up for a long chat in a London hotel room, Yvonne suddenly realised the truth of it all for her: "It was basically two girls in love with the same boy who, over the course of a five-hour conversation, realised that that boy was not who we thought he was. The details don't matter. It doesn't matter that he was a pop star. It doesn't matter that I was the wife or that she was the dancer. That's basically what this story is all about. It is kind of tragic. I can say that now because I am over it. What got lost in all the media was there were two girls who were absolutely heartbroken," Yvonne told me in July.

I rang Yvonne yesterday at home in Malahide. She said 2014 was about her moving on because she has never been in such a good place.

I asked her did she ever think at her lowest during the break-up that she would ever be this happy again? She said no.

"Even though friends and family tell you will get through it, it's impossible to see past what you're going through until time passes. There is no magic or secret formulas. Just time," she said.

"Doing the interview," she continued, "helped me draw a line.

"It enabled me to embrace moving mentally and publicly and get back to work. I loved my Masterchef and ITV's This Morning cooking experiences and generally loved the challenge of balancing work and family life. 2013 was a very happy year for me and I'm equally positive about 2014. I've put on a stone and I'm turning 40 in February yet I've never felt as comfortable in my own skin.

"I'm looking forward to a busy 2014 with my kids being my priority. I'm also keen to make time to be as good a friend as mine have been to me."

Yvonne Keating, woman of the year?

CAPTION: BITTERSWEET: The former Keating family home in Malahide, Co Dublin, which will go on sale in January; right: Ronan and Yvonne Keating in 2004.

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