David McWilliams

after chairing The Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh last week, some would assume economist David McWilliams is too heavyweight for light-hearted comedy.

But the Sunday Tribune has learned that McWilliams is to be the next host of RTÉ debate The Panel.

McWilliams will act as MC for the comedy discussion when it returns to RTÉ1 on Thursday 5 November, where he will trade jokes with Colin Murphy and Andrew Maxwell. However, RTÉ sources say it's his background in the financial services which makes McWilliams (43) the right man to present The Panel in 2009.

An insider on the show said: "David McWilliams is a heavyweight but it's a heavy time for the country. Anyone who has seen David on TV or read his books will know he has a brilliant ability to translate the impenetrable into funny accessible language. You really need that when everybody is going around using acronyms like Nama and expressions like quantitative easing without a clue of what they mean."

McWilliams himself is said to have been keen to host the show, having performed well when he tested for the programme last year, alongside Gráinne Seoige and Ray D'Arcy.

An appearance by Taoiseach Brian Cowen on The Panel looks unlikely with McWilliams as host.

Asked recently if he would consider talking to Taoiseach Brian Cowen about the current financial crisis, McWilliams told the Sunday Tribune: "Brian Cowen? Are you joking? You must realise that the top brass in Fianna Fáil know nothing. There's no point in interviewing them. They know less than your average bus driver."

The Panel will be the second RTÉ programme to feature McWilliams this year.

Next Tuesday night at 10:30pm, the economist can be seen in Addicted To Money, a new three part ABC Australia/RTÉ co-production which sees McWilliams travel the world surveying the wreckage of the global economy.