Bono praises economist’s gift to ‘aerate’ dense subjects

New book by David McWilliams explores transformation of Irish society since 1979

David McWilliams has the “gift of being able to take very simple things and make them complicated” joked Bono, at the launch of the economist’s latest treatise on Irish society on Thursday.

“No of course I mean it the other way round,” he said, “and it is genuinely his gift; to take dense subjects and sort of aerate them.”

With Renaissance Nation, McWilliams explores the transformation of Irish society in the four decades between two papal visits.

The Irish Times columnist looks at how the generation born around 1979 went on to drive the economy, and the "quiet revolution" of an "insurgent middle class".


Addressing the launch at the Cliff Townhouse in Dublin, Mr McWilliams said Ireland in that period had transformed itself from a "know your place" nation to a "have a go" one, characterised by a centrist mood, enlightenment and liberalism.

He also took the opportunity to reflect on John Reynolds, the late music promoter buried on Thursday, as just one of those whose "have a go" approach to life had helped propel change.

The book was officially launched by Blindboy Boatclub who, obscured by his uniform plastic bag face mask, celebrated the ability of McWilliams to demystify economics.

Describing his time reading the author's previous book The Pope's Children while studying the subject in school, he recalled: "All of a sudden it was opened up to me".

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times