Lessons from the month of August

It’s back to school time! And though August appeared dull and uninteresting on the outside, the news that came from it provided a number of thinking points. Join us in looking back on the month that was.

1. The burial of Sinéad O’Connor

While the Irish singer died in July, the world said their goodbyes to the late, great Sinéad O’Connor on the 8th of August at her Bray funeral. Thousands gathered on the seafront outside O’Connor’s colourful, Wicklow home to see the cortège make its way to a private burial. Joining them in spirit were the thousands online who thanked O’Connor for her tireless work, activism and courage in the face of hate. President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Bob Geldof, Bono and the Edge all attended the private funeral service, which was led by Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, who said: “The more she sang and spoke about her own pain, as well as about the pervasive sins in society that she witnessed, the more her voice and her words resonated with listeners and touched their hearts. Sinéad never stopped her search to know God fully, exemplifying a life marked with a deep communion with God.”

Sinéad was arguably the first to witness the gnarling bite of cancel culture, repeatedly standing up for what she believed in despite the consequences. It’s a testament to the woman she was, not to mention the millions of devoted fans she gained around the world. At her funeral, Dr. Umar Al-Qadri continued by saying O’Connor’s voice was a gift that “moved a generation of young people, she could reduce listeners to tears by her otherworldly resonance”. “One need only listen to her a cappella version of O Danny Boy or the traditional Irish tune Molly Malone to know this about her gift,” he said. “Sinéad’s voice carried with it an undertone of hope, of finding one’s way home. The Irish people have long found solace in song from the sufferings of this lower abode, and Sinéad was no exception, and in sharing that solace, she brought joy to countless people the world over.” Let her voice ring true to the importance of sticking to one’s beliefs and always being oneself despite the outside noise. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

2. The final days of RTÉ and Ryan Tubridy

It seems that all “fusses” die down eventually, permitting the fussee to return to life largely as they knew it, while the public scratches its head and tries to recall precisely which scandal/salary/Noel Kelly client it remembers them from. In Ryan Tubridy’s case, it seems the top earning presenter simply flew too close to the sun, when a seemingly ‘anodyne,’ statement, as per the broadsheets, got his burgeoning RTÉ return deal to vanish into thin air. In it, he commented on the report by Grant Thornton that showed Tubridy in-fact under-declared his income by €120,000, stating that “it is also clear that my actual income from RTÉ in 2020 and 2021 matches what was originally published as my earnings for those years and RTÉ has not yet published its top 10 earner details for 2022″.

Yes, it all went up in flames like a Toy Show skit gone wrong. However! When scandals abate, rumours fly, and in this case, there are plenty. It seems the former national broadcaster’s top earner was in talks with everyone from GB News to Virgin Media, with no confirmed new placement just yet. For now, we just have to wait for the Late Late Show’s new Top Boy Patrick Kielty’s first show in September. Let us hope it will be the dawn of a new RTÉ, one without a complaint from everyone in the audience.

3. Climate Change, again

Temperatures continued to reach extreme highs across many parts of the northern hemisphere in August, with wildfires raging in Greece and Spain signaling the latest fierce warning of the effects of the climate crisis. In Italy, where temperatures pushed close to the European record of 48.8°C, Italians were warned to brace themselves for “the most intense heatwave of the summer and also one of the most intense of all time”. Further from home, temperatures in California’s Death Valley, often among the hottest places on Earth, recorded temperatures of up to 49°C in August. Maui, however, seemed to fare the worst. The wind-driven fires prompted evacuations, and caused widespread damage, killing at least 115 people and leaving 388 others missing in the town of Lāhainā.

In a stark warning to world leaders on the 1st of August, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organisation, wrote on X “The hottest month just ended. We witnessed scorching heat, extreme weather events, wildfires and severe health consequences. It’s a stark reminder of the urgent need for collective action to address climate change. Let’s use this alarming milestone to fuel our determination for bold climate action. Together, we can turn up the heat on sustainable solutions and create a cooler, more resilient world for generations to come.’’

So, while footballers are hiring out full planes to travel the world, we may feel our contribution to helping the environment is insignificant, but every little helps, and the only way we can do this is together. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, may we recommend Hometree.

4. Employment rates are, dare we say, good

Irish employment is currently at the highest rate recorded since the series began in 1998 with more than 74% of people aged between 15 and 64 employed. According to data released from the Central Statistics Office, there were 31,900 people in long-term unemployment, an increase of 100 people in the second quarter of 2022. Meanwhile, the number of people aged 15-89 in employment increased by 3.5% in the past twelve months.

To add to this, the Irish economy is currently outperforming its EU peers, according to the Mastercard Economics Institute. According to them, Irish consumers have been relatively resilient despite the huge inflation shock with strong employment growth and historically low unemployment at 3.8% in June supporting the economy. Mastercard said the economy has also been boosted by healthy balance sheets with very low household debt by Ireland’s historical standards, and by eurozone standards, and it has been flattered by excess savings from the pandemic. That said, the gap between rich and poor in Ireland is rising. Independent Think Tank Social Justice Ireland has warned the Government that this gap has widened significantly thanks to Budget 2023 in hopes that Budget 2024 won’t repeat the same process. The group says the Budget provided the least for those in Ireland earning between €15-€20 per hour and that Budget 2023 increased the Rich-Poor gap by €199 in the year, a gap which now stands at almost €1,000 per week.

When comparing that with China, which has stopped releasing youth unemployment figures in a move that some believe to be an indication of the country’s slowdown, one could ask: where does that put us? In June, China’s jobless rate for 16 to 24-year-olds in urban areas hit a record high of more than 20%. The country’s central bank also cut the cost of borrowing earlier this month in an attempt to help boost growth, while official figures published showed China’s overall unemployment rate had risen to 5.3% in July. So, what does this mean – is research only being printed when it’s good news? If so, rabbits being pulled from hats are in our future – setting a dangerous precedent for all.

5. A drop was experienced in Irish M+A activity

Overall, Irish M&A deal volumes have experienced a decline during the first half of this year when compared with the last––with 198 deals reported by way of Renatus this year compared with 226 in 2022. This represents only a 2pc drop compared to last year, but the overall size of these deals has dropped significantly.The total value of these deals was €5.2bn, a 58pc drop compared to the €12.4bn Ireland saw in the first half of 2022. The year, too, has not been forgiving for all dealmakers with rising inflation, interest rates, and soaring energy prices impacting valuations and deal flow.

A few takeaways from their report include:

  • International acquirers are the primary category of acquirers, with most inbound acquisitions coming from the UK
  • Financial Services is the sector with the most deal activity right now.
  •  A positive outlook remains for the remainder of the year, driven by rising business confidence and an increased appetite for acquisitions.
  • As business sentiment continues to improve, it is anticipated that deal activity will gain momentum, contributing to economic growth and recovery.

To summarise, it sort of feels like a great shift is happening, doesn’t it? Or perhaps things are changing at such a glacial pace that day by day we don’t notice them, but one month later, everything feels entirely different. That said, there are few times when the belief that better days are ahead has felt so strong. Meteorologically, at least.

Overall impressions certainly reside within the realms of big change for Ireland, anyway. With four new constituencies, a national broadcaster shakeup and a boost to employment in the bag, things are feeling rather light. The only thing we’re missing is Sinéad – and we will continue to, forever more.

For now, let us put our hope into the World Cup – wherein we have the best chance we’ve arguably ever had. And as per Tubridy’s ‘anodyne’ statement, in which he took little responsibility and no blame, it looks like brain worms are actually en vogue at the minute, so perhaps let’s not be too harsh.

Our team is dedicated to providing you and your business with the absolute best business advice out there. We approach each and every case from a fresh perspective, working with you to find tailored solutions that leave your business feeling stronger than ever. With our expert analysis, we translate figures into a language you can understand. Using timely, reliable advice, our experienced team of experts devise sophisticated plans to encourage cost efficiency and growth. To find out more, contact our team at Fitzgerald Power today.