There was a sharp increase in the amount of merger and acquisitions activity in the first half of this year when compared to 2013, according to corporate law firm William Fry.

More than 40 deals announced during the first six months of 2014, according to the organisation's mid-year review, up 31.3% on the same period of last year.

This marked the busiest start to the year since 2008, with the value of the mooted deals significantly higher than those seen in recent years at €39.3bn.

The bulk of that value has come from Medtronic's €33.9bn acquisition of Covidien. According to Bryan Bourke, head of corporate and mergers and acquisitions at William Fry, this is also the biggest deal announced in Europe so far this year.

Mr Bourke also pointed to a broadening of activity, with seven different sectors making up the top ten deals in the first half of 2014.

This includes the sale of former semi-State company Bord Gáis Energy to Britain's Centrica for €1.1bn, Fyffes' planned merger with Chiquita and Bank of Ireland's sale of the ICS mortgage book to Dilosk.

The property sector also saw a significant increase in activity during the period, according to William Fry, with high-profile deals like Donald Trump's Doonbeg acquisition taking place in recent months.

However the firm also issued a note of caution about the current market, saying that the levels of public and private debt remained "troubling", while problems with SME's access to credit was also a concern.