They began as a five-piece, have been a quartet for most of their career and now it looks like Westlife are going to be a trio for the foreseeable future.

Founding member Mark Feehily shocked fans with an announcement on social media last night that he is to ‘stand down’ from the band to deal with health issues.

Westlife are due to play their first headline shows in the US in March, but it will be without their Sligo-born comrade.

In a lengthy message on Instagram, Feehily explained how he has been dealing with health complications since first having a surgery in 2020 which left him hospital-bound for months, after he contracted sepsis in the wake of the procedure.

He wrote: "It was during lockdown. For months, due to strict Covid restrictions, I was not allowed any visitors including my fiancé and my then 10-month-old daughter. It was physically and mentally a very difficult time, not to mention traumatic having to spend so long in ICU.”

He explained that he became ill again in Newcastle in late 2021 before a concert after contracting pneumonia. “I was told I had to go straight home to recover and regrettably miss the rest of the concerts that December,” he said. “I was referred to a consultant who told me I needed more surgery which I went ahead with in May 2022 meaning I was forced to miss more of The Wild Dreams tour.”

After rejoining the band on tour, he then developed an “incisional hernia” which meant that he had to have a fourth surgery recently and has been ordered to rest and recuperate. "It is with the upmost level of regret that I must now temporarily stand down from all Westlife touring until a time that I have had the chance to fully recover from the turbulent journey I have been through as an individual,” he said.  

The 43-year-old Feehily paid tribute to his family and friends, as well as his partner Cailean and their daughter Layla, and also thanked his Westlife bandmates for their support.

"To Shane, Kian and Nicky, I love you three and I know you'll knock it out of the park. I'll be there with you in spirit for each and every show whilst you continue to fly the Westlife flag around the world.”

The boyband released their own statement of support for Feehily, pledging to “continue to fly the Westlife flag higher than ever for you guys” on their Instagram stories.

Get well soon, Mark!