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SOCIAL LIFE: Are you a single sommelier or a solicitor still searching?Fancy a round of silent speed dating or a supper safari?

Before converging in one open room, the women were given a lock chain and the men a key chain.It’s a “bit naff”, concedes Mulcahy, but it’s designed as an ice-breaker conversation starter. this was a social enterprise, not a dating enterprise.They have the house, they have the dog, but they don’t have a partner. They are the forgotten generation.” But once a month, they are mixing and mingling, and meeting dozens of new people in organised nights out.THE SUCCESS STORY Laboratory supervisor Celine Robbins (55) and civil engineer David Galbraith (58) could be recruited as mascots for the entire online and novelty sector, such is their enthusiasm for the alternative outlet.But the events remain a taboo subject among many, carrying a curious stigma that is difficult to articulate.

Most participants are fearful of a public “badge of desperation” because of past perceptions of lonely-hearts columns and online chatrooms.

Some people have been returning to singles nights for more than five years, according to Hugh Redmond of Get

All the while, the number of people in their 20s attending everything from masked balls to Wicklow walks and dinner parties is increasing. Then there are the professionals aged 30 to 40 who have been through the dating regime and they’re disillusioned. “The 40-plus group are often single, separated, divorced or bereaved.

After each round, the men move to the next table, during which both sides can discreetly mark their “dating card”.

The following day, if there’s a match, they receive an e-mail.

The Australians have become accomplished speed daters, with a growing range of options including tall-men speed dating, university-educated speed dating, toyboy speed dating and globetrotters speed dating.