If you want the inside track on what’s happening inside the X-Factor house, there’s no point in trying to persuade any of the members of Mullingar teen Niall Horan’s family to spill the beans.
Mum Maura and dad Bobby are sworn to secrecy - with all sorts of threats of legal action hanging over them if they speak of what they hear from Niall - while Niall’s elder brother Greg admits he’s not hearing everything, due to the family fear that out of pride, he’d tell all!
And pride and delight just about describe what Greg is feeling these day’s over the kid brother’s achievements, in his role as one of the five members of the boyband “One Direction”, put together over the course of the show by Simon Cowell.
“Proud is not the word,” says Greg. “‘Proud’ is an understatement.”
But with that pride in Niall, comes worry too.
“My heart is telling me that they will win, and my head is telling me that there’ll be heartbreak,” says Greg.
Greg, who works at the Spar shop on Mullingar’s C-Link, just minutes from the home that Niall shares with dad Bobby, says the family always knew Niall was a talented singer: just last December, he was one of those who participated in the Mullingar Shamrocks’ show “Stars in Their Eyes” as the US singer-songwriter, Jason Mraz; and Greg says that the very night that Joe McElderry won the X-Factor last year, Niall went online to apply for this year’s show.
“I have great faith in him,” Greg says, only slightly amazed at seeing Niall, soar to international fame, eclipsing already many of the most well-known names ever to come from Mullingar.
There have been surprises along the way for Greg, such as learning that Niall could play guitar - and that he is pretty damn good at it too; finding how at ease Niall is on stage, how much of a natural performer he is - gifts that have come to him without any formal voice training.
Greg travelled to the UK for the first of this year’s Live Shows - a trip he is making again this weekend - and he got to meet most of the other performers.
In true loyal fashion, he will say only that they’re all lovely - including the somewhat controversial and hotly-tipped Cher Lloyd.
“She’s sound,” he says, giving her an enthusiastic thumbs up; Mary Byrne also gets the thumbs up - although like the families of other contestants, he feels she’s at an unfair advantage in the support she is getting from Tesco.
He says Niall got on very well with Storm Lee, booted off last weekend - but his best friends in the X-Factor house are the four other singers in “One Direction”.
“They are like brothers,” says Greg, letting slip the news that another of the One Direction heartthrobs - Harry Styles - came to Mullingar with Niall, and stayed with Niall and his dad.
However, right from the early stages, there has been so much that Niall has had to hold back from his family - where he was going, what stage he was at, for while the X-Factor has only been on tv for a matter of weeks at this stage, it was way back in May that Niall did the live auditions.
He says Niall has admitted he is still getting his head around the fact that he can be walking down a corridor, bump into Cheryl Cole, and she’ll say “hi” to him.
“He says Simon Cowell is a musical genius,” says Greg, filled with an admiration for Cowell that has come directly from Niall, who is in thrall to the legendary figure.
Greg is thrilled at how Mullingar has supported Niall to date - but he hopes that since Irish people can now vote in the X-Factor, Mullingar people really pull out all the stops, and show the sort of support that will help keep Niall and One Direction in the show right up to the very end.
“The guys have gelled so well together, and they tick every box to win X Factor, and to be one of the best boybands ever.” If things had gone differently, Niall would at this stage be in sixth year at St. Mary’s, studying for his Leaving Cert - and hoping to make his way into journalism. Now, no matter where One Direction wind up in the X-Factor, it looks as if Niall’s life will be beyond Mullingar. Not Greg’s, however. “No. I wouldn’t leave here. I’m happy in Mullingar,” he declares.