George Lee to run for Fine Gael

 

RTÉ’s economics editor, George Lee, has put his name forward as a candidate for Fine Gael in the Dublin South byelection.

Mr Lee told RTÉ radio’s News at Onetoday that it was now a "very good time for people like me to play a different role".

“It is now time for me to move on . . . to participate and help put the country back together”, Mr Lee told the programme. Mr Lee will now have to take a leave of absence from his position within the State broadcaster.

“I want to make sure that the country get’s a better Government," he added.

He said he had been actively considering the option since the Budget. He also dismissed suggestions that he had engaged in any anti-Government bias given his decision to join Fine Gael and said he had reported “accurately and fairly” and without “fear or favour” while in his job in RTÉ.

He is now on unpaid leave of absence for the duration of the campaign, RTÉ said in a statement.

"RTÉ regrets the decision by George Lee to resign his post to seek the Fine Gael nomination as a candidate in Dublin South. George has made an excellent contribution to RTÉ and its audience in his role as economics editor," the station said.

"This situation is not unprecedented. Members of staff may take unpaid leave in order to stand for an electoral position. If they wish to return to RTÉ they may do so, however, they are not automatically entitled to return to the particular position which they left."

Mr Lee is standing after the vacancy caused by the death of former Fianna Fáil minister Séamus Brennan.

He recently presented a widely watched documentary on RTÉ television about the demise of the Celtic Tiger economy, How We Blew the Boom.

In advance of the 2002 general election there was speculation that Mr Lee would run as a Fine Gael candidate but, in the event, he decided not to seek a nomination. In recent weeks there had been renewed speculation he was in discussions with Fine Gael about running in the Dublin South byelection and that has now been confirmed.

The Government’s decision last week to hold the byelection on June 5th, on the same date as the European and local elections, brought the issue to a head. Fine Gael will hold a selection convention tomorrow night, where Lee will be formally chosen as a candidate.

The identity of the candidate has been kept a secret even from the local party organisation in Dublin South. The printing of posters and election literature for some council candidates has been held back until the name of the byelection candidate can be added.

Speculation about the identity of the candidate had included broadcasters George Hook and David McWilliams, former taoiseach John Bruton, former Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell and economist Jim Power.

A native of Dublin, 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 senior economist at Riada Stockbrokers. Mr Lee lives in Templeogue in the Dublin South constituency.

Fianna Fáil will also hold a selection convention in the constituency tomorrow night with Shay Brennan, son of the late Séamus Brennan, the favourite to get the nomination ahead of Senator Maria Corrigan.

Mr Brennan, who works with Anglo Irish Bank, had been reluctant to run because of the controversy over the bank but has had a change of heart in recent times.