Tuesday 17 October 2017

George Lee quits the Dail

George Lee pictured at the south Dublin Fine Gael constituency meeting at the Stillorgan Park Hotel where he was nominated as a candidate
George Lee pictured at the south Dublin Fine Gael constituency meeting at the Stillorgan Park Hotel where he was nominated as a candidate

Journalist turned politician today announced he is to quit the Dail less than nine months after being elected.

The Dublin South TD, who won the seat for Fine Gael last June, said he was stepping down because he has had little impact on the party's economic policies.

Mr Lee said: "The reality, however, is that despite my best efforts I have had virtually no influence or input into shaping Fine Gael's economic policies at this most critical time.

"The role I have been playing within the party has been very limited and I have found this to be personally unfulfilling."

The former RTE economics editor won the seat vacated by the death of former Government minister Seamus Brennan.

He said his decision to quit was a difficult one but he was no longer happy in the party.

"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," Mr Lee said.

"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."

His win last June was hailed by party leader Enda Kenny as the father of two had become increasingly high profile in recent years with his reporting of the demise of the economy.

His resignation will deal a blow to the party's aspirations to be in government and Mr Kenny's hopes of becoming Taoiseach.

Mr Lee said it was an honour to serve with the party but he did not want his position to be used to promote policies on which he was not consulted.

"It has been a great privilege and an honour to serve on their behalf," Mr Lee said.

"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."

Mr Lee took the Dublin South seat on the first count - a feat not seen in a by-election since Taoiseach Brian Cowen was elected a TD in 1984.

Mr Lee won 27,768 first preference votes, polling well over 50pc and clinching the seat from Fianna Fail.

Since he declared for the by-election in early May he had been the front-runner for the seat vacated by the death of Mr Brennan, ahead of Labour's Senator Alex White and Mr Brennan's son Shay.

A UCD graduate with an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, Mr Lee won a Journalist of the Year award in 1998 for uncovering a tax evasion and over-charging scandal in the National Irish Bank.

Before joining RTE, he previously worked as a senior economist at Riada Stockbrokers and as an economist with the Central Bank.

Mr Lee served as chairman of the Fine Gael economic committee.

Announcing his intention to stand for the Dail Mr Lee said it was a difficult decision to leave RTE after 17 years but added it was time for people to get off the fence and try to make matters better.

He berated the Government, claiming the Irish people were victims of economic incompetence.

And he denied his legacy as an independent economic commentator would be tarnished by getting involved in politics.

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