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Louis predicts Irish X-cess (and P.S. the Herald is my favourite paper!)

LOUIS Walsh is brimming with eXcitement here in London as the hit show prepares for a whopper season.

He even confides to me how he loves the Herald. Hearing about our 235,000 readers in the latest figures released, Louis whispers to me: "tell your boss it's a great read."

"I always pick up a copy when I'm at home and it's great to see the newspaper doing so well," he says.

On the set here X Factor have hired a crack security team to protect Louis.

As 200 members of the public were allowed privileged access to the X Factor launch at the O2 in London, ITV bosses were taking no chances. A team of burly minders ensured no one came too close to the cheeky Mayo music mogul.

"Normally, he would be posing for pics with the fans and mingling with everyone backstage but that's all changed this year after what happened," said in insider.

"They were taking no chances and security was all tightened up. Even when Louis was doing red carpet interviews, onlookers were kept at bay by his security staff."

Louis tells me Ireland will be very well represented in the competition.

Several home-grown acts through to the bootcamp stage, including Dubliners Megan Burke, Michelle Barrett and Melanie McCabe, alongside Tyrone native Janet Devlin.

"There's loads of Irish acts but we haven't done our final bootcamp yet so nothing is confirmed. The acts have to be really, really good to get through. The standard this year has gone through the roof," Louis says.

He is the only original judge to return to this year's panel, joined by newcomers Take That's Gary Barlow, Tulisa Contostavlos of N-Dubz and Destiny's Child babe Kelly Rowland.

Louis reckons it's a case of 'Cheryl who?' when it comes to the new line-up. "We're going to miss Simon but the new panel is going to be amazing," he said.

He's clearly got a new fan himself when it comes to Tulisa, who said they had bonded over their shared heritage.

She revealed how her mum Anne Byrne is from Churchtown and she regularly visits.

Tulisa said: "Louis is my little muffin, I love Louis to pieces. It's such an unexpected relationship. Everyone thought that me and Louis would end up clashing and having lots of arguments but that never happened."

The new series of X Factor kicks off on TV3 this Saturday at 8pm.