For the past week, the country has in large part been consumed by the fallout from the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden on 19 August.

The controversy, that has so far claimed multiple high-profile scalps, provoked significant public outrage and shone a bright spotlight on the Government's handling of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic here.

But while a cacophony of voices aired their discontent about the affair in homes and workplaces, on streets, online, in print and on the airwaves, in the background the economy continued its stuttering, unconvincing and often faltering recovery.

For example, on the same day that the now infamous dinner took place in Clifden, 80km east in Galway city, yet another small local business closed its doors for good.

Phil Hogan
Phil Hogan was among the high-profile politicians to resign following 'golfgate'

Posting on its Facebook page, the proprietors of Le Petit Pois restaurant in the city told followers that they were very sad to announce that after "five years of fabulous dream, love, food and wine sharing" they were closing their beloved and locally popular French restaurant.

"The reasons are the ones to be expected, a very hard year 2020 particularly with our very small and tight room and no clear sign of international improvement in the months to come," wrote Michèle and Philippe Renaut.

"There are no real good words to describe these five years, it was more than just running a restaurant, it has been our life project, our water and air for five years, we have put our soul into it and the only thing we can say is we have been more than rewarded for it: you have been amazing."

It was a sad and quiet end for another enterprise that employed people and provided a valuable service to a local community, and an announcement which probably went unnoticed by many who knew the eatery, drowned out by the din of fury and rage that surrounded the unhelpful distraction that was "golfgate".

It was also further evidence - as if we needed it - that while parts of the economy seem to have bounced back strongly from the months of Covid-19 lockdown, others (particularly smaller businesses) continue to struggle and many more remain in dire straits.

Ordinarily September heralds the resumption of normal trade for many following some holiday downtime during the summer.

Grafton Street
Footfall in cities and town centres around the country remains at depressed levels

But just like the return to school this year will be very different, so too will be the autumn and winter for enterprises large and small.

Many business owners got no break, working through the summer months simply to try to keep their firms afloat.

Others couldn’t afford to take a staycation, because their incomes had plummeted so much over the previous months or disappeared altogether.

Indeed, many still have not reopened since the spring lockdown.

The Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of the year, published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Tuesday, laid bare the mammoth task facing the Government in getting people back to work and restoring incomes.

The adjusted unemployment rate stood at 23.1% at the end of June, the total number of hours worked falling by 22% in the period compared to the same three months last year.

"There is no ready way of telling at this point how large and lasting the impact of the pandemic may be on the Irish jobs market," said Austin Hughes, Chief Economist with KBC Bank Ireland.

"However, the scale of impacts revealed in today’s numbers urges the importance of substantial and sustained policy support to minimise the permanent scarring on the Irish labour market."

Social welfare
Labour Force Survey for second quarter of the year laid bare mammoth task facing Government

Social welfare claimant data also paints a concerning picture, with the numbers claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment in the last week down just 2,000 over the previous seven days to 234,400 - implying an unemployment rate of 14.8%.

"This suggests job gains have slowed to a trickle and Ireland will still have a double-digit unemployment rate by end-2020," wrote Davy Chief Economist Conall MacCoille.

The worries that are still out there among the spending public were also captured by KBC and the ESRI in their consumer confidence index, which fell back slightly in August after three successive months of improvements from the trough in April.

"This suggests that fears of a renewed Covid-19 outbreak and tighter restrictions hurt sentiment, as strong labour market gains in July petered out," Mr MacCoille said.

Internationally, the recovery is tentative in many places too.

Wednesday saw the OECD publish its measure of the economic picture across its members for the second quarter of the year, with an unprecedented contraction of 9.8% recorded.

At the end of this week we should get the first glimpse of what the impact was more locally, with the CSO due to publish the Quarterly National Accounts for the second quarter.

They may not show the Irish economy pulling back to quite the same extent as the OECD average between April and June, but the numbers are still expected to be grim and without precedent in this country.

All this inevitably feeds into the state of the national finances and later this week, we should get an update on where the exchequer returns stood at the end of August.

With a deficit of €30bn expected for this year due to the ballooning cost of Covid-19, the Government is facing some very tricky and unpalatable decisions as it steps up work on framing October’s Budget and the long-term National Economic Plan in the coming weeks.

So back in the real economy, in the shopping centres and main streets of cities and towns around the country, it is clear the picture remains far from rosy.

Pubs that do not serve food have been closed since March

Pubs that do not serve food remain closed and restaurant capacities are still reduced due to social distancing.

The return to school means the uptick in 'staycay' business experienced by some hotels and other tourist attractions and activity providers in July and August is petering out.

The international travel sector remains largely grounded due to the maintenance of overseas travel restrictions.

Most non-essential workers continue to work from home, keeping the footfall in city and town centres down at depressed levels that are so low that it will make many businesses unsustainable.

Firms also continue to grapple with the extra costs and complexity of operating in the Covid era.

And some businesses in areas where the number of cases of Covid-19 are climbing again are looking to recent local lockdowns in Kildare, Laois and Offaly and wondering, will their area be next?

So politics and politicians may have garnered much of the attention in the past week, amid the fallout of the golfgate scandal.

But for businesses struggling to make ends meet, just treading water because of state assistance that will at some point have to end, the focus needs to quickly return to what lies ahead, as they face into an economic autumn and winter like no other.