MUSIC mogul Simon Cowell and singer Gary Barlow were among the first to congratulate X Factor star Louis Walsh following his €500,000 settlement in his defamation case.
Speaking to the Herald, reality TV judge Louis (60) said he was looking forward to putting the experience behind him -- and enjoying a new start in 2013.
The new start for Louis kicked off in the Four Seasons Hotel last night where he was celebrating the result.
Referring to Leonard Watters, the man convicted of making false allegations against him, Louis told the Herald: "He's a total chameleon and he's dangerous.
Watters was in jail and deserved to be there, Louis said.
Mayo man Louis said he would never have got through the past year without the support of his tight-knit circle of friends and family.
"You have to fight fire with fire and just get through it and today's brilliant for me. I'm so relieved and happy, it's like a total weight has been lifted off me," he added.
"My phone hasn't stopped all day.
"Everyone's been on to me, from Simon Cowell to Piers Morgan to Gary Barlow, all texting me.
"I talked to Simon for 45 minutes today and he said, 'I'm glad it's all over and we can just get back to work now'. He's been incredibly supportive, as were all my friends, and my mother's delighted.
"They all knew it was false from the start and it was their support that got me through."
After the settlement was announced in the Four Courts and an apology from The Irish Sun read out in the High Court, the X Factor judge last night celebrated in the Four Seasons hotel.
But despite receiving well-wishes from showbiz pals around the world, he told the Herald how he'll never get over what happened to him.
He explained: "I'm relieved and I'm glad and I'm totally vindicated but I can't believe that someone tried to do this to me, that an Irish newspaper tried to ruin my life -- and they nearly did.
"But luckily, the truth came out in the end."
The music promoter was left distraught after being falsely accused of groping unemployed dance teacher Leonard Watters in the toilet of a Dublin nightclub.
The out-of-court deal was reached after he sued Rupert Murdoch's News Group Newspapers over the June 23, 2011, front-page story with the fabricated claims.
Watters was subsequently jailed for six months for making up the claims.
Yet Louis has insisted that taking the case was "never about the money".
He said that his entire life had been put on hold in the wake of the false claims being published -- and all that he had wanted was vindication.
"It was about getting a public apology and getting my freedom back and being able to sleep better at night-time," he explained.
"I'm still not over it. I haven't been the same since the story was printed.
"I don't go out any more and it's just crazy that an Irish newspaper could do this to me and target me in this way and try to destroy me.
"I can't believe the people who did it. I told them there was no truth in it and they still ran the story.
"It was a very personal attack on me and I'll never forgive them for it."
He has been forced to lead a far more cautious life after being put through the ordeal -- and finds it much harder to trust people now.
"I'm scared now to even get a picture taken with someone -- they could say anything and it makes you really scared.
"I'm more wary about who I talk to, I don't go out much and there are so many opportunists out there, people who are fame whores," he continued.
He said he's now looking forward to getting back to normality as he enters the final stage of the X Factor, with just 10 days left to go.
Louis also said he'll be flying to Miami shortly after Christmas as he enjoys a much-needed break in the Florida sunshine.