If you ate breakfast rolls, had decking in your back garden or drove a 4X4, McWilliams had your life figured out in his last project, 'In Search of the Pope's Children'.

These and other signifiers of Celtic Tiger Ireland were not unduly chosen, but extrapolating one-size-fits-all lifestyles, social statuses and economic prospects from them proved a generalisation too far for many people.

For his second book, McWilliams makes less frequent use of his trademark monikers, as if they themselves are boomtime trimmings which are cut to make room for the serious business of analysing an economic downturn he sees as well under way.

The book's generational premise is that older adults with mortgages paid and second properties bought ahead of the boom made off with the fruits of the Celtic Tiger, while parents of young children are struggling with long commutes and large housing repayments.

McWilliams says property is the nub of Ireland's economic success and will be the key issue for a country weathering more modest fortunes in the years to come. He is adamant that Ireland has over-invested in this fixed asset, and cites UCD figures which claim that property prices in a post-boom cycle will decline slowly for seven years, losing a total of 70% of the rise in value made during the good times.

The country's reliance on rootless multinationals and China's looming economic prowess also cause worry for McWilliams, who views the 21st Century as the second age of globalisation. He traces an outline of the world's economy in the last two centuries, putting forward Uruguay as an example of a country that was on top of the world seven decades ago but is now languishing in a depressed economic state.

He believes Ireland's economy is as open to a harsh decline as it has been to foreign direct investment, and goes as far as to suggest the country should withdraw from the euro so it can regain control over its interest rates. 

In different parts of the book McWilliams drifts out of balanced analysis into right-wing rhetoric, such as in his evident reluctance toward the rapid arrival of 400,000 newcomers to Irish society. His tone is one of warning when he posits that immigrants take seven years in their host country to attain work at the level of their qualifications when they arrived, and he seems most interested in casting the New Irish (a term he rejects) as future competitors with the native Irish in a race to the bottom on wages.  

This may just be an affected precursor to the central conclusion of the book, which is that Ireland can save its economy by tapping in to its richest resource, the Diaspora. McWilliams argues that we should extend our passport laws to the millions around the world with Irish links older than two generations. He points to the value of Jews abroad to Israel, and argues that the Irish economy would be galvanised even if Americans or Australians with Irish roots did not choose to stay here permanently.

The potential of this idea is, like many others in 'The Generation Game', wrapped up in a thread of analysis that could be countermanded in its entirety tomorrow by another economist. Yet undoubtedly the author has a knack for enlivening dry facts that goes beyond mere jokey names, and this book along with its accompanying TV series will see further widespread notice for the McWilliams take on the country's financial future.

Bill Lehane

Read the transcript from David McWilliams' recent webchat here.