'I offered to do DNA test to identify Debbie's dad'
'X FACTOR' sensation Mary Byrne has lifted the lid on her secret heartache about the father of her only daughter, who she described as "the only man that I ever loved".
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, the singer spoke of the guilt she felt at the attention being heaped upon the man and his young family, who still live just yards from her own home in Ballyfermot, Dublin.
Mary also said she is positive that the man, who she does not want to identify, is the father of her daughter Debbie.
She has previously offered to arrange DNA tests in an attempt to prove this.
She also said she had been left "shocked and upset" earlier this week after a tabloid newspaper tracked down the man.
One million Irish viewers -- one in four of the population -- are due to tune in to Mary's shot at the final tomorrow night.
However, she has had only one rehearsal, after spending the week recovering from sickness. An ear and chest infection kept her bedbound for most of the week -- even up to last night.
The 51-year-old, who is due to perform in the semi-final of the show tonight, insisted that she had always tried to keep the spotlight off her former lover.
And she begged the media to respect the privacy of the father of her daughter Debbie (24).
"I'm genuinely sick about this and upset," Mary told this newspaper. "I don't want anyone to go near this man or his family.
"Neither myself nor Deborah have ever named him. I don't want his family upset in any way."
Nevertheless, Mary acknowledged that the media focus on her daughter's father was partially her fault after she hinted at her past relationship live in front of millions of 'X Factor' viewers last week.
"It kind of is my fault because he did have a life prior to that and I shouldn't have said anything about Deborah's father.
"But it was part of my life too and I couldn't ignore that, that love I had for him," she said.
Mary split from her partner while she was still pregnant.
She said her former lover at first denied that Debbie was his child, even after Mary suggested paternity tests.
"He was like that in the beginning but he knew quite well," Mary added.
"Back then, he said to me he knew that I was so much in love with him, I could never be with anyone else.
"And I told him that he could have tests done, the whole lot, but I have never had any doubts at all who the father of my child was."
The mother-of-one also went on to deny claims made on the internet this week that she had entered into a relationship with the man while he was involved in a second relationship.
"That's not true," said Mary. "He had split from his partner and was away from her for over a year when I started going out with him. That was the knowledge I had.
"There were times when he told me he loved me and he cared. I was a woman who fell madly in love and I believed him."
The Tesco checkout worker achieved fame after auditioning for the UK talent show in Dublin in June.
Mary said she tried to protect the father of her child from the ensuing media attention. And she angrily denied that she had intentionally sent journalists on his trail in revenge.
"When I started doing interviews, all the time I just spoke about myself and Deborah. When the English newspapers sent reporters over to Dublin to find out his name, I warned all my friends not to say anything and they never opened their mouths.
"I feel bad but then he didn't look after his daughter Deborah.
"Now she doesn't want anything to do with him and what she fears about me being in 'X Factor' is that this will bring him back.
"That's gone. Neither myself nor Deborah want anything to do with him."
Mary faces the biggest test of her spectacular adventure tonight when she battles to make it into the finals of the hit show. But her preparations have been thrown into chaos due to illness.
"I'm on antibiotics and they have helped. It's stopped my sneezing, anyway," Mary said.
She will perform two songs in tonight's semi-final -- the Gladys Knight hit 'The Way We Were' and 'Never Can Say Goodbye', made famous by Gloria Gaynor.
"Both these songs I used to sing for my mother, Lilly, who has passed away," she said.
"Any time I've sung them since, I've cried."
Mary also said that revisiting her split from Deborah's father after so many years had given her the inspiration to win the talent show.
"I was so upset back then. This has made me want to win 'X Factor' even more. I used to say it was a young person's programme but I think now I have as good a chance as anyone else," she said.
Mullingar teen Niall Horan (17), of the band One Direction, also performs tonight.