Keith Duffy talks about missing Stephen Gately, his daughter’s autism and the return to Coronation Street of his character, Ciaran…

You recently shot a video for your new song Gave It All Away. What was it like with Stephen not being there?
“It was very difficult indeed. We shed a lot of tears. But we did a beautiful job and it’s a great tribute to Stephen. It seems to capture exactly what we were feeling and the lyrics are very apt. When I watched it for the first time after coming home from work I sat there on my own and cried my eyes out for two hours.”

So his passing is still very raw?
“I’m devastated by Stephen’s passing. I miss him so much. I spend a lot of time reminiscing in my head about times we’ve had together in the past 18 years. I think all of us in the band feel the same. When we’re not together, we feel a little bit lost and that’s why Corrie has been so good for me.”

How has it helped?
“It’s take my mind off things and given me something to focus on. I am a PMA man – positive mental attitude. When my daughter, Mia, was diagnosed with autism, it was a destroying time, but I found whatever positives I could in the situation and that really helped. We don’t all live every day like it’s our last, but I try and remind myself that I should.”

That must have been tough as well?
“I didn’t know what autism was. I was told that my daughter had this disability that would affect her for the rest of her life. My wife went into denial and was very upset. I tried to be positive and my only way of coping was to try and sort the problem out. There was nobody to talk to, so I had to educate myself. I met other parents in the same situation and realised that I had to take my head out of the sand and get something done, so I decided to fundraise for Irish Autism Action and I’m involved with the National Autistic Society. I am delighted by what we’ve achieved and by the progress my daughter has made. She’s in her third year at mainstream school and is doing brilliantly. I’m proud of my son, too. He’s great with his sister. He’s really into his soccer at the moment and to be honest, he’s a pretty good-looking fella!”

What was it like going back to the cobbles?
“It’s four years since I left and it’s great to be back. I’m a lot more confident and experienced now. I’ve done a couple of shows back in Ireland and appeared in my first stage play. I told them back in 2008 that I was keen to come back.”

How does it happen?
“Ciaran is working as a chef and Peter Barlow comes into his restaurant. He takes him back to Weatherfield to help him with his bar/restaurant. As soon as Ciaran gets there he starts chatting up girls. Even Liz McDonald gets a bit hot and bothered by his flirting. He’s got his eye on Michelle and Carla, although she’s not as receptive to the Irish charm!”

So living in Dublin means quite a bit of time away from home?
“To be honest, it’s always been like that with me and Lisa. We’ve been together for 16 years and in that time, I’ve always travelled. I’m in Manchester during the week and I go home at weekends. We talk a lot on Skype, although I’m not computer literate – my son had to set it up for me.”

So what do you get up to during the week? Do you go out much?
“No. I haven’t got the energy! I was a bit wild in my youth and I fitted so much into my life. I’ve travelled the world and I’ve had my time with the lads. I was 20 when I became a dad and I was a young 20. I didn’t know anything! It’s a good job I had children when I did or else I would be crazy now. I even take it easy at weekends, as I usually have to get up early on a Sunday to go and watch my son play football. I’m very different to how I was in my 20s – I’ve even learned how to use the washing machine. I’m quite good around the house these days.”