Walsh to miss X factor for Gately funeral

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The Independent Online

X Factor judge Louis Walsh confirmed today that he will miss this weekend's shows while he attends Stephen Gately's funeral on Saturday.

There had been speculation about whether the Boyzone manager would be able to make the programmes as he mourned his close friend.

A statement from the show's producers today said: "Due to recent tragic events, Louis Walsh will not be appearing on either the Saturday or Sunday live The X Factor shows this weekend as he is attending Stephen Gately's funeral.

"Louis has been in close contact with his acts throughout the week, although his opinions will not be represented in the show this weekend."

Speaking to Sky News, Walsh said it had not sunk in that he would never see Gately again.

Asked about rumours that Gately had been drinking to excess, Walsh said: "He was on holidays in Majorca. Anyone on holidays goes out and has a few drinks.

"I've never seen him drunk in my life. He was always having fun. He looked after himself, he was very health-conscious and he was in a good place."

Walsh said that he was trying to persuade Gately to appear on the new series of Celebrity Big Brother, but Gately had told him he wanted to perform in the show Jersey Boys in the West End.

"He was going for an audition in a few weeks," Walsh said.

"That's the only thing in his life that he hadn't done that he wanted to do."

He added: "He was always happy, always smiling. He lived his life to the best ... he fulfilled his dream, he was the little kid from Dublin who wanted to be a pop star ... He just wanted a better life ... I think he helped me more than I helped him, if I'm honest."

Walsh said no thought had been given so far to the future of Boyzone, whose members were Gately's "best friends".

He said: "I'm talking to them on a regular basis, every few hours."

Asked what was going to happen to the band, he said: "Oh God, we don't know. I don't know.

"We haven't even thought anything about Boyzone. This is about Stephen. It's not about us at the moment.

"We can't believe that we're not going to see him again. We just can't believe it.

"And it hasn't sunk in with any of us. I'm keeping busy and they're keeping busy. But I know the reality tomorrow night is just going to be a hard thing to deal with, and then Saturday."

Asked how he would cope on Saturday, Walsh said: "I think the boys will absolutely get me through it. We started off together. I wouldn't be here today without Boyzone. They got me my first break.

"And we made it against all odds. People laughed about us at the start - do you remember that Late, Late show appearance?

"Everybody laughed. But we made it, we've had a great life. And we love music, this is our life. I couldn't do a real job - this is my job."

Walsh said of Boyzone: "They're going to Majorca tomorrow. They're going to bring him back to Dublin.

"They're going to stay with him in the church all night because his mother said he wouldn't want to be alone.

"And they know what he's like ... they're going to look after him. They're going to stay with him.

"And we're going to give him the best send-off ever in Dublin on Saturday."

* Meanwhile Stephen Gately's grief-stricken Boyzone bandmates today visited the church where his funeral will be held.

Ronan Keating, Mikey Graham, Shane Lynch and Keith Duffy made a brief trip to the Dublin inner city chapel to meet the local priest ahead of the service on Saturday.

The four were flanked by security at St Laurence O'Toole's while they discussed arrangements with local police.

Local children cheered as the solemn-looking singers walked from a school adjoining the church before being driven out in the back of a police van.