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Irish by birth, and having made a fortune in hotels, she now divides her time between Cannes and London.

Five years ago, with an address book positively bulging with successful but often lonely men and women, she decided to set up a dating agency.

Berkeley International's membership fee of £6,000 per year guarantees her clients - hundreds of singletons from all over the world, at a ratio of 50/50 men and women - are solvent, but I'm surprised when she tells me how many are multi-millionaires.

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Men say they want intelligent, independent women who are their equal in every way, but do they, really?

Mairead, who is 38, blonde and delightfully blunt, asks me to fill her in on my background, and tell her what I look for in a man.

I tell her I was married to someone much younger who never paid for anything.

Until now, I always thought people who resort to dating agencies must be a little desperate. I have never before even been set up by friends or been on a blind date.

But then I reached the first anniversary of my divorce and, much to my surprise, having sworn off men for life, I started to wonder, with the prospect of a great big yawning new year stretching ahead of me, whether there might be someone out there for me and, if so, how on earth am I going to find him?

Miraculously, given that I was the editor of a woman's fashion magazine, before meeting my husband in my early 40s (then a BBC journalist, he came to interview me; as soon as we got married, he gave up his job and started having sex with other women), I had only ever had three boyfriends, two of whom hadn't even liked me that much.Liz Jones braves the snow in Times Square, New York, as she searches for Mr Right I think the reason I never met men was that I was either working, or sat at home, wishing they'd come to me, which, of course, they didn't.With such a terrible track record, I started to realise that, if I couldn't meet someone when I was in my prime, how on earth was I going to meet someone now I'm 50?My friend Kerry, tired of my moaning, had told me about an upmarket dating agency that takes on only high-achieving rich people.'You need someone generous,' she said, my husband's name unspoken between us, 'with a bank account, not a piggy bank'.And so, just before Christmas, I meet Mairead Molloy.