Profile of George Lee

 

THE MANNER of George Lee’s announcement bore striking similarities to the manner in which the previous chapter in his high-profile career ended.

On the morning of May 5th last, The Irish Timesreported that the then RTÉ economics editor was at the centre of speculation that he would be unveiled as Fine Gael’s Dublin South byelection candidate.

Later that morning, Lee told a shocked RTÉ director of news Ed Mulhall the story was true.

Lee was perceived as the epitome of even-handedness over a career in RTÉ extending to almost two decades. But in recent years, he was more critical and outspoken in his commentary – most notably in opposing tax individualisation in the late 1990s. But the frequency of more editorialised stances since 2007 grew, leading to critical scrutiny of his commentary by Fianna Fáil.

Though from the affluent Dublin South constituency, his background was modest. He was born in 1962, the seventh of eight children. His father was a motor mechanic, his mother a hairdresser and the family lived in Templeogue.

Lee joined the Civil Service after the Leaving Cert, working for the CSO. He was given the opportunity to study economics at UCD, where he gained a first-class honours degree, and won a scholarship for a Master’s at the LSE in London.

After a variety of positions, his first journalistic venture was as a columnist with the new Sunday Business Postin the late 1980s. He later took a full-time job with the paper and spent a year with Riada stockbrokers, before joining RTÉ as a reporter in 1992.

He and Charlie Bird were named journalists of the year in 1998 for their investigation for tax scandals at NIB.

His gamble to abandon his well-paid post in RTÉ to enter politics seemed to be borne out by the extraordinary reaction to his candidacy in Dublin South.