Hell hath no fury like an economist scorned. Leading practitioners of the dismal science have reacted angrily to promotional material for David McWilliams' upcoming theatre outing, Outsiders, which claims he is the only economist to have accurately predicted the economic collapse.
According to promotional material circulated by the Abbey Theatre: "While others cheered the boom, only one economist accurately predicted the collapse and mess we find ourselves in. He told you the truth then; he's telling you the truth now."
Some economists last week expressed concerns at the accuracy of the statement. Philip Lane, head of economics at Trinity College Dublin said other people also predicted the onset of a financial downturn.
"Maybe the Abbey PR person is not familiar with names such as Morgan Kelly, Alan Ahearne and John FitzGerald, who warned of the over-valued housing market, and Patrick Honohan, who identified excessive lending growth by the Irish banks," said Lane.
FitzGerald, of the Economic and Social Research Institute, recalled several reports from his institute since 2006 which included warnings.
"In spring 2006 we argued that fiscal policy was too lax. That summer we raised questions about the sustainability of the economy in regards to the size of the construction sector. In winter 2006 we pointed out that the budget was too expansionary. In spring 2007 we discussed serious concerns on the growth trajectory. The theme of autumn 2007 was uncertainty. We mentioned the potential for a banking collapse. In winter 2007 we discussed the unsustainable nature of a recent growth experience. In the spring of 2008 we warned about deterioration in public finances, and the need to curtail spending. Then, that summer, the R word."
Karl Whelan, professor of economics at University College Dublin, said a certain amount of artistic licence may be responsible for the claim.
"It's no secret that others also predicted the end of the housing boom. Alan Ahearne and Morgan Kelly come to mind. There was also a widely-cited piece in the Economist. But it's advertising and some artistic license is perhaps allowed."
He also said McWilliams does deserve credit for predicting the end of the housing boom.
"David certainly predicted the housing boom would end in a crash for quite some time and I've no problem with him getting a pretty fair share of credit for it."
Abbey theatre spokesman Dave McCadden said: "No one else predicted the financial downturn in 2000 and 2001. David McWilliams did."