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Give us a hug ..we love you; 3am SPECIAL: BRYAN QUITS: WESTLIFE'S FAREWELL TEARS.

Byline: EVA SIMPSON and PAUL MARTIN

WESTLIFE star Bryan McFadden yesterday dropped the bombshell fans had been dreading and emotionally revealed: "I am quitting the band to become a househusband."

The superstar was in floods of tears with his bandmates as they announced the news to the world's media.

Bryan said he has been tortured for six months by the agonising decision to quit the record-breaking pop group.

He added: "This has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do. These guys are my best friends, but I just couldn't go on.

"Over the past six months I've been trying to make a decision about my future.

"Particularly since the birth of my second daughter Lily I have found it impossible to put 100 per cent into both the band and my family.

"Something had to give and I sat the lads down five days ago and broke the news.

"I have no plans for a solo pop career or TV or anything like that. I'm going to be a househusband for the time being."

As Bryan announced the news the rest of the band sat by his side in a conference room at Dublin's Four Seasons Hotel.

The Westlife wives - Kerry McFadden, Georgina Byrne and Gillian Filan - sat at the back of the room crying.

Bryan added: "To be honest, Kerry's I'm A Celebrity success was nothing to do with me leaving the band.

"She did not put an ounce of pressure on me to get out of the group. It was my own decision.

"I'll always be best friends with the lads but it'll be hard not seeing them as much any more.

"They'll be off touring the world and I'll be at home with the babies."

Shane Filan said the writing had been on the wall for a number of weeks.

He revealed: "We knew Bryan wasn't happy and we arranged to have a meeting with him last week after the Meteor Awards.

"None of us knew what to expect and that's when Bryan confirmed our worst fears. We're devastated to be losing him, but we want him to be happy.

"We would have given anything for him to change his mind, but if his heart wasn't in it 100 per cent then he has made the right decision."

Kian Egan then read out an emotional letter to Bryan, in their final act as a five-piece.

Taking long pauses to choke back the tears, he said: "The last five days have been a huge strain on us all and only the five of us and Louis Walsh will ever know what we've been through.

"We've shared laughter, tears, success, weddings and babies. But most of all, we've shared our friendship.

"One last time Bryan, from the bottom of our hearts, we love you."

With that Bryan stood up and embraced each member of the group who he had shared 11 No1 hits, chart-topping albums and sell-out world tours with.

Within seconds the star was whisked to a private room in the Four Seasons with his wife Kerry.

The remaining four members of the group then held their first press conference with the new line-up.

Nicky Byrne insisted Bryan's departure was not the end of the group.

He said: "People are going to compare this to when Robbie left Take That, but it's not the same thing at all.

"Robbie was sacked from their band and he didn't get on with the rest of them. We're still extremely close to Bryan."

Asked if they feared a backlash from the fans Shane replied: "We've been defying the odds from day one and proved we've got staying power.

"We're going to be around for a long time yet. We've got a duets album coming out and another one planned after that.

"People are going to say what they want but the fans will decide how much longer Westlife lasts, not the media."

And the star revealed how Bryan was already planning a reunion at the opening night of their forthcoming European tour, which kicks off at Belfast's Odyssey Arena on March 29.

He said: "Just before we came in here Bryan said he can't wait to come to the first gig, sit in one of the boxes and watch us all perform. You never know, we might give him a free pass." Westlife manager Louis Walsh then declared it was "business as usual".

The You're A Star judge said: "We're still going to be the biggest band in the world. I've never seen the lads more positive.

"We're going to tour the world again and have loads of singles out. There were only four in The Beatles and they did all right."

The group's official statement read: "Westlife today announce that in the tradition of all great groups they are now a four-piece.

"The band have taken time out of their rehearsals to announce the amicable departure of member Bryan McFadden.

"Nicky, Kian, Mark, Shane and Bryan have decided that this is the ideal moment for Bryan to leave Westlife. Bryan has come to a point in his life where he feels he can no longer give Westlife the 100 per cent commitment needed. He will be spending time at home developing other aspects of his life.

"Westlife are obviously devastated by this move but have come to terms with it.

"The group are naturally sorry to see Bryan go and these developments have come as a shock to them. Nicky, Kian, Shane and Mark will continue to give Westlife and their fans all their very best.

"Westlife would like to stress to all the fans that they need all their support at this time, more than ever, but not to worry Westlife are here to stay.

"Westlife are Unbreakable."

showbiz@irishmirror.ie

CAPTION(S):

NOW IT'S THE FAB FOUR: PAGES 4&5; UNBREAKABLE: Mirror man Paul Martin with the new-look Westlife four-piece; SEE YOU LATER MATE: Bryan and Kian yesterday; SUPPORT: Remaining Westlife members Shane and Kian get emotional; FOR THE GOOD TIMES: Bryan and Mark; BIG PLANS: Manager Louis Walsh; AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR; FAMILY MAN: Bryan wants to spend time with wife Kerry and kids Lily and Molly Sue
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2004
Words:1034
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