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I had heard some bad experiences of internet dating, but I liked the idea of the introductions agency because it was very discreet.” Having been in two serious long-term relationships, Thomas found himself single while most of his friends had settled down with partners and young families.His job in computer software meant he worked long shifts and he had no “wingmen” to join him on the regular dating scene.

Many of those offer free membership and target a younger market not necessarily looking to settle into a lasting relationship at first click.

Two’s Company is an offline (its website only exists to market its services and set out its terms) introductory service, which charges customers between €600 and €2,500 for a half-year’s membership, depending on their requirements.

And consolidation is growing amongst service providers — US industry leader, is a particularly keen acquirer of smaller enterprises.

Indeed, Two’s Company has been approached, by UK-based agency Berkeley International to act as its Irish-based franchisee, although it has turned down the approach.

It’s quite sobering to hear the head of one of the country’s leading dating agencies downplay Valentine’s Day as a money-making ploy and denigrate (some of) the plethora of online players as cynical money machines that care little for their members’ feelings.

But, far from being some cantankerous killjoy, Bill Phelan — co-founder of Dublin-based introduction agency Two’s Company — is more concerned about making sure his firm does things the right way and offers people best value for money.The considered average is 60% female/40% male, but the reality is suspected to be nearer 70%/30%.The equality offered by Two’s Company is seen by its female members —a mix of company executives, divorcees, widows, and singletons aged anything between 30 and 80 — as a huge attraction, as they’re more likely to meet a reliable match without sifting through too many non-starters, as it were.While no where near as lucrative, the dating industry is growing.The best estimate for dating/introductory agency spend is around £2bn (€2.4bn) globally per annum; and that figure would grow a lot more if an increasing amount of businesses charged for membership.We know how important discretion is, which is why we don’t show just anyone your picture. “What I really liked about Parship is the anonymity of not having my photograph for just anyone to view..." - Irish Independent, March 2011."Parship isn’t a flirting website aimed at casual flings.Many of our members are predominantly affluent, educated men and women between 28 and 55 years old. You’ll be matched with likeminded, high quality Irish singles.When using the dating site, members can only communicate through Parship’s anonymous contact and messaging system. "Specifically for people who are looking for a long-term relationship..." - Irish Times, February 2012.One-third of Irish Parship members enter a relationship lasting at least six months..." - Irish Times, November 2009.Many single people in their 30s and older find bars and clubs hostile environments in which to meet somebody, and can find themselves increasingly isolated and lonely as the rest of their friends pair off, settle down and have children.

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