The Mission star who won an Oscar, reveals in a RTÉ Radio One interview his wife took a back seat during his early career in films.
“At that point, I was working quite a lot, making three or four films a year.
“It coincided with my children being born so I didn’t see a lot of them when they were young.
“Sinead held the fort which was great and sacrificed, to a certain extent, her career for a while. For me acting is an escape. My wife describes it as ‘the shy man’s revenge’ and there is something in that.
“I’m never more alone than when I’m on stage ... and in a character, I can be [alone] and I find it much easier to open up to somebody in that situation than if I’m in a room,” he said.
The actor also revealed he was hopeless with the opposite sex when he was young but busking helped him to attract dates.
He said: “I was always very bad at picking up girls. When I was working as a social worker, I used to busk in the streets and I did it through Europe — it was a great way to travel with my guitar.
“And I discovered that girls came around you like butterflies around a bush which was wonderful. So I used my guitar to attract the opposite sex.”
Residing in a home on the Ilen River near Skibbereen, he also acquired and restored the nearby, seven-storey, 15th century Kilcoe castle near the village of Ballydehob some years ago.
During the restoration, painting works caused a stir when the castle turned a peach colour.
The former window cleaner said: “I never wanted fame, fortunately. I think a lot of people today do want fame which is something I’m very concerned about with young people.
“They don’t seem to realise that fame has no value, unless there is a particularly full restaurant that you want to get into but that’s the only thing.
“All fame means is that more people know you than you know and it’s not very comfortable. It creates an imbalance.”
*John Kelly in Public with Jeremy Irons will be broadcast at 12 noon.