George Lee resigns from Fine Gael and Dáil Éireann
George Lee has announced his resignation from Fine Gael and Dáil Éireann with immediate effect.
The former RTÉ economics editor was elected to the Dáil in the Dublin South byelection last June.
In a brief statement this morning, Mr Lee said that, despite his best efforts, he has had “virtually no influence or input” in shaping Fine Gael’s economic policies during a period of enormous economic upheaval.
“When I entered politics last May I made it clear that I was doing so because I wanted to try to play a new role contributing to economic policy formulation," he said. "Throughout that period I have done my best to play a positive role in contributing to the national debate and to efforts to find a solution for many of the country’s economic problems."
However, Mr Lee said that "after nine months of trying within the political system, it is now my considered view that the role available to me within Fine Gael is not a role I am happy to play.”
Speaking later on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Lee said the time he had spent in the Dáil was long enough to decide whether he was fitting into the party. "I don't know if I was cold-shouldered," he said. "All I know was that I wasn't involved."
Mr Lee said he had tried his best to have an influence on shaping the party's economic policies. "But I have to confess I've had virtually no influence, no input whatsoever, and I feel I be completely dishonest if I allowed myself to carry on like that, so I'm not going to carry on like that. It's over."
Mr Lee said that while he had been appointed chairman of an economic forum, this was done "without my consultation whatsoever, which wasn't the role at all I wanted to play".
He said he would have expected to have had a greater input in terms of economic policy debates, decisions, or consultations. "But it just didn't happen."
He said he carried out serious reflection, particularly since Christmas, over his role within that party. "Although a role may well have been provided, from my point of view, it's too late," he said.
"Nine months is a long time. . . nine months is enough time to make up your mind as regards how you're fitting into the party, and what kind of role you're playing. Every single day of those nine months, I was available, I was there, I was interested, and so on, and I'm not anymore."
Asked if he felt an obligation to the 27,000 people who voted for him to stay on as an Independent, Mr Lee said he could not fool those people by telling them he was tackling the economic crisis "When it comes to being an Independent . . . I can't do that particular role . . . it isn't possible to play that role as an Independent," he said.
Denying he had been impatient, Mr Lee said he was being "entirely" realistic. "They [Fine Gael] came looking for me, I didn't go looking for them. Nothing happened, it's over," he insisted.
"I'm a team player, I haven't had any team," Mr Lee said of his time with Fine Gael. "It wasn't about being on the front bench, it's about having influence. . . I could have been asked, I could have been involved," he said.
"There wasn't going to be room made for me . . . I'm very disappointed for the people who supported me."
He also ruled out a change of mind and said he planned to return to RTÉ, although he declined to say in what role.
Mr Lee topped the poll in the Dublin South constituency byelection, which was held to fill the seat following the death of former Fianna Fáil minister Seamus Brennan. Mr Lee was elected on the first count with 27,768 votes, comfortably ahead of nearest rival, Labour Senator Alex White, who had 10,294 votes.
Mr Lee today thanked the voters who had elected him. “However, I do not believe I would be serving the electorate honestly if I were to continue allowing my efforts and mandate to be used to promote and market economic policies into which I have had no input,” he said.
Announcing his decision in May to put his name forward in the byelection, Mr Lee said: “It is now time for me to move on . . . to participate and help put the country back together . . . I want to make sure that the country get’s a better Government."
After Mr Lee took his leave of absence from the State broadcaster, RTÉ said it regretted the move.
A spokeswoman for RTÉ said today Mr Lee is on an unpaid leave of absence, which ends in May. She said the company had yet to hear from him about his intentions. "The normal situation is that a member of staff on leave of absence is assured of employment within RTÉ on their return, but not necessarily to the position which they left," she said.
A native of Dublin, Mr Lee is a graduate of University College Dublin and holds an MSc in economics from the London School of Economics. He worked for the Central Bank in Dublin and was later a senior economist at Riada Stockbrokers. He lives in Templeogue in the Dublin South constituency.
He presented a widely watched documentary on RTÉ television about the demise of the Celtic Tiger economy, How We Blew the Boom.