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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 18:39 GMT
Westlife's way to success
Westlife at Birmingham NEC
The band became one of the biggest pop groups in the UK
Irish pop group Westlife have announced Bryan McFadden has left after five years.

It leaves the group a four-piece - with the remaining members pledging to continue Westlife's chart-topping career.

The five-piece vocal group, formed by former Boyzone manager Louis Walsh, made their first splash in the pop scene back in 1999.

They group boasted teenagers Bryan McFadden, Kian Egan, Mark Feehily, Nicky Byrne, and Shane Filan, and followed on from Boyzone's squeaky-clean pop image.

McFadden and Byrne hailed from Dublin, with the other three members coming from the north western town of Sligo.

Walsh formed the band as Boyzone's chart-topping powers began to wane.

The former Boyzone singer turned solo star Ronan Keating was touted as the band's co-manager alongside Walsh.

Brian McFadden and Mark Feehily
The band said they were devastated by McFadden's departure
"They have got the potential to go very far," predicted Keating early in 1999.

Their first single was Swear it Again, which gave them the first of many UK number ones, and was the fastest-selling single ever in its first week of release.

It introduced their multi-vocal style, which led to comparisons to Take That, who had split up three years before.

They followed its success with another number one hit, If I Let You Go, which made them the first group in history to have number ones with their first two singles.

Millennium record

It was only the beginning of a remarkable career, which saw them score 12 UK number one singles and sell more than 30 million records worldwide.

They became the last number one of the previous millennium when their double A-side single I Have a Dream/ Seasons in the Sun beat Cliff Richard's Millennium Prayer to be the last number one of 1999.

Their first album, Westlife, was a predictable chart-topper in 2000, while the act became one of Irish pop music's biggest exports.

Westlife at the Brits
The band have been winners at the Brit awards

By February 2002 the group had notched up their tenth UK number one, World of Our Own.

This came hot on the heels of the group's first wedding, as Bryan McFadden married former Atomic Kitten star Kerry Katona in a ceremony in Ireland. The pair have two children - Molly and Lily Sue.

McFadden was at the centre of one of the few scandals that has affected the group, when he was reportedly involved in a scuffle with members of the British rap act So Solid Crew after the 2002 Brit Awards.

Last August Byrne married his partner Georgina - daughter of Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern - in France, while in December Filan married his girlfriend in County Mayo.

McFadden's departure came after consistent reports the group's power was on the wane, especially as current single Obvious did not go straight in at number one.

The remaining members of Westlife are stressing the group will continue, as they turn to work on a new album of duets with other artists.

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