Ex-RTE editor to get full salary if he returns
Published 09/02/2010 | 05:00
GEORGE Lee will return to RTE on his full salary -- even though he will not be allowed to immediately return to an editorial position because he is politically tainted.
If he returns to the national broadcaster, as he says he expects to do, he will be placed in a kind of 'quarantine' for a period before he is able to resume a position as a journalist or producer.
The quarantine is designed to protect RTE from accusations of bias in its reporting and programming. Mr Lee left his position as a high-profile economics editor last summer to contest the Dublin South by-election.
He will almost certainly not be able to return to the economics brief but he will retain his previous salary, details of which RTE will not release, but which is understood to be worth up to €150,000.
His scathing attacks on government policy since his election would inevitably lead to charges of bias and his move into politics last May even led Fianna Fail politicians to question his previous reporting.
"I don't know 100pc what I'm going to do now," Mr Lee said yesterday.
"I will probably be going back to RTE. I think I have to get over this bridge and decide what I want to do.
"I won't be able to go back to do the job I was doing. I joined a political party and there are consequences to that."
He is on unpaid leave from RTE, but that expires in May. A spokesperson for the national broadcaster said that it had not received any communication from Mr Lee while he mulled over his options in the past few weeks. The staff in Montrose heard about the shock move at the same time as everybody else, the spokesperson said.
"RTE has not formally received any communication from George Lee at the moment," the spokesperson added. "George Lee did say on 'Liveline' that he'd sent a letter (to us). We haven't received anything formally or informally.
"The general situation is, when you're in that position, you can return to RTE and have a job, but it's not necessarily the position you had before you left."
The spokesperson added that no feelers had been put out informally by RTE or by Mr Lee about rejoining the organisation.
There are two vacancies within the RTE newsroom -- the post to be vacated by Charlie Bird's unexpectedly soon return from Washington, and a post in Brussels opened up by Sean Whelan's move to the economics portfolio.
But because of the unofficial policy of quarantining editorial staff, it is not clear if Mr Lee will be able to apply for either.