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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK


Fans back Boyzone's Stephen

Stephen Gately: Feared being "outed"

Paul Lester of Uncut magazine: He probably had little choice but to do the interview
Music experts and fans are predicting Boyzone's career will continue to prosper, following singer Stephen Gately's announcement that he is gay and has a boyfriend.

The news was relayed in a statement on Tuesday night and posted on Boyzone's official Website after Gately feared a former associate of the group was going to sell the story to a newspaper.

Fans have flooded the band's Website with messages of support, and the BBC's teletext service Ceefax has had scores of phone calls and e-mails from fans.

One fan, Claire, said on the Website: "It must have been a hard thing to do and I really admire him for it. Good luck with your new fella!"

Smash Hits editor John McKie thinks the group, fronted by Ronan Keating, will continue to prosper.

'It's very brave and honest'

"Ronan got married, losing his single status, and went on to win three Smash Hits awards last year. I think Stephen will still be immensely popular," he said.

"No-one's ever come out at the height of their career before. It's very brave and honest of Stephen. I think the fans will be very supportive."

Gennaro Castaldo, of the HMV retail chain, said: "Now this is out in the open he can relax. The coverage of the story has come across in a very empathetic way, and the high profile it has been given can only help sales."

The group currently have the UK's number one album, a greatest hits collection called By Request.

Dutch boyfriend

[ image: Wednesday's Sun newspaper carries the big interview]
Wednesday's Sun newspaper carries the big interview
Gately told The Sun he is in a relationship with Eloy de Jong, a 26-year-old singer with the Dutch boy band, Caught In The Act.

He told the newspaper: "I wanted my fans to hear the facts from me and Eloy before anyone else got the chance to publish a twisted version of the truth.

"I hope the fans who have supported us from day one will respect my honesty."

Gately said the announcement did not affect his career with Boyzone at all.

Chart success

Gately, a former barman and shop assistant, and his four colleagues were handpicked by club owner and manager Louis Walsh from 300 hopefuls in 1993.

[ image: Ronan Keating...happily married man]
Ronan Keating...happily married man
After conquering Ireland, Boyzone took the UK charts by storm. The group - Gately, Keating, Keith Duffy, Shane Lynch and Mikey Graham - have had a string of number one hits including Words, All That I Need and No Matter What.

They have had 13 consecutive top five singles.

Lynch married Easther Bennett from girl group Eternal last year and Ronan Keating's wife Yvonne gave birth to a son, Jack, eight weeks ago.

The decision of The Sun newspaper to carry the interview was attacked by Paul Lester of Uncut magazine.

"I think there were only about 11 people in the UK who didn't know already that he was gay. It's not a big deal and I think The Sun has misjudged the mood of the nation."


[ image: Boyzone have had huge success in the UK]
Boyzone have had huge success in the UK
Mr Lester warned that the story's publication could backfire on the newspaper just as it had when details of Elton John's private life were splashed on the front page.

The gay rights group Outrage! has "outed" several prominent people in the past but spokesman David Allison said it would never have considered outing Gately.

He told BBC News Online: "We are only interested in outing people who are living a gay life in private and attacking the gay community in public.

"This guy is not doing any harm to the gay community"

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