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A Web site that helps people have affairs is to launch in Ireland with a major marketing campaign later this year, IrishCentral can reveal.

The site, Ashley Madison, has been in operation in North America since 2001, and its Canadian founder, Noel Biderman, told IrishCentral in an exclusive interview that membership has gone up from one million to 3.6 million in the past 12 months – in part thanks to the recession.

The site works by matching people up who both want to have affairs and who live in the same locality. Users can search for other likeminded people in their area.

 And users who sign up to the “Affair Guarantee” membership program and who don’t find an affair after three months can get their money back.

Biderman said that the site has already had a “soft launch” in Ireland – meaning that it can be used in Ireland. He says that it currently has around 5400 Irish members, with no advertising or marketing there.

He said that his company is currently carrying out market research in Ireland, and will launch a major advertising campaign later this year, spending “millions of euro.”

 “We have a manager for our international operations coming on board so you’ll be seeing us marketing in Ireland aggressively by late 2009,” Biderman said.

“We‘ll be letting people in Ireland know about Ashley Madison’s existence. Right now, what you get when you choose our service in Ireland is the same as what you get in Canada. Once we start marketing seriously in Ireland, we will start tailoring the site specifically for that market.”

He believes that Ireland “has all the makings for being a very positive market place for Ashley Madison.”

“Ireland has lower divorce rates compared to the U.S., meaning people stay in their marriages more often than they do in the US, which benefits our business,” Biderman said.

“There’s an ocean out there, because men are men, and it’s in their DNA to not want to be monogamous. So they might be staying in their marriages and they might be looking for cathartic outlets.”

Biderman said that the fact that Ireland has traditionally been a conservative Catholic country will also benefit his business.

“The more you suppress human nature, the more likely it is to manifest itself. My business may not be all that successful in France – they don’t need me. It’s more socially accepted there that men have mistresses. It’s part of their culture. But in Ireland it’s not accepted,” he said.

He also said that Ashley Madison provides a healthy alternative to work affairs and to prostitution.

“Men who do have affairs tend to have them at work – that’s what the research says – and that’s really unhealthy from a risk opportunity point of view. You could lose your job.

“Irish men and women are going to have affairs – but they shouldn’t do it in the workplace. We aren’t going to invent infidelity but we have a chance to cannibalize infidelity and say, ‘Hey, that’s really risky. Don’t have work affairs, and going to a prostitute is risky behavior – it’s dangerous, it’s against the law, there’s a chance you can get a STD. Go to a community of people where everyone has the same expectations and no one is going to rat you out.’”

Biderman argued that the severe Irish recession could provide rich pickings for his site.

“In times of financial stress, people turn to outlets that make them feel better. Some people turn to alcohol. But for some people the best bang they can get for their buck is to have an affair. Infidelity rates tend to go up in tough economic times.”

 “The other factor is that the majority of marital discord revolves around economic issues – that’s where 70 percent of marital problems stem from. It’s really hard when you are at odds with your partner to turn on the intimacy dial, when you are fighting over where the next dollar is going to come from.

“You tend to flip over and go to sleep. So come Monday morning, you are not only frustrated with your life, you are also sexually frustrated - and Ashley Madison seems like a very attractive alternative.”

Earlier this week, Accord, a Catholic marriage counseling agency in Ireland, said that it had recorded a 40 per cent increase in couples seeking its services because of financial problems in the past two years.

However, John Farrelly, the director of counseling at the agency, told IrishCentral that he was not concerned withAshley Madison's expansion into Ireland.

"I am fairly sure that the people of Ireland understand that Mr. Biderman has no interest in their marriage or family but purely in money,' Farrelly said.

"Money is scarce at this time and most people are concentrating on putting food on the table as opposed to in Mr. Bidermans pocket."