The Boyzone singer has told GaydarRadio that he still misses the gay music star, who died in 2009 from an undiagnosed heart condition; describing Stephen Gately as his “best friend”.

Ronan Keating also spoke of how proud he, and everyone in Boyzone was, when Stephen came out in 1999.

When asked about the importance of his gay fans, Keating told the station’s breakfast show presenters, Neil Sexton and Debbie Ryan: “Whoever is in to my music and my records, fantastic, it’s all great for me, I am very open to…all walks of life, whoever wants to listen to my music, it’s fantastic.

Keating continued: “My gay following is very important. Every time Boyzone bought out a new album and a solo [single] as well, we always made a point of doing the G-A-Y show in London, which is a massive show and all of the big pop acts get to do it, and it’s very important”.

When asked about his teenage friendship with Gately and whether it informed him about the LGBT community, Keating replied:

“I guess at 16 I was very naïve, I was only a baby, really, but we knew early on in the band that Stephen was gay…being, probably, my best friend…I very much embraced that and started to understand it a lot more, and became far more open to all of that”.

Keating then spoke out the moment Gately’s sexuality became public knowledge in 1999.

“What I saw him go through, the pain and the hurt, and the fear, and the anxiety, that he went through when the news came out…it was so scary for him, all we could do was be there for him…and be the best friends that we could be for him, and be the shoulders that he needed to lean on.”

Keating added: “The strength that [Gately] had, and the way the fans reacted to that was so inspirational and so fantastic…I was so proud of him, we all were…he was my best friend, and I loved him so much, I still miss him every day”.

Keating is currently taking part in Australia’s X Factor show along with Spice Girl Mel B.

His new album, Fires, is now available to buy and download.

Find out more at: www.ronankeating.com