'I was against party policy as it would crucify the economy'
FORMER Fine Gael TD George Lee has revealed that he was completely opposed to his party's economic policy because it was designed to "crucify the economy".
But he published no policies of his own because he said he had gone into the party to influence Fine Gael policy.
Mr Lee made his first detailed criticism of Fine Gael's economic approach, after previously complaining that he had no input into the policies devised by Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton.
"Where I differ from Fine Gael's core policy on the economy is that I believe it was far too mainstream -- it was right down the line in terms of what right-wing economic commentators would suggest -- crucify the economy -- that will make everything better. I don't believe that's going to work," he said.
Mr Lee did not go so far as to say he would oppose social welfare cuts or public sector pay cuts. He said he believed the €24.6bn deficit in the public finances had to be addressed -- but not at the pace currently being backed by both Fine Gael and the Government.
"Remember our neighbouring economy [the UK] has the same problem -- and decided it's too dangerous to do it at anything remotely like the pace we're doing it. Why should we just accept this mantra that what we must do is crucify our economy?"
Mr Lee, who was clearing out his office in the Dail yesterday after his shock resignation, said the problem was much more complicated than "simplistically saying that we would do everything that the Government does". "That's what Fine Gael's policy broadly was -- in broad macro-economic terms we'll take €4bn out, and so was Labour.
"The Government haven't succeeded in plugging the hole in the public finances, you saw the figures in January. They haven't succeeded at all in restoring economic growth or jobs," he said.
Mr Lee also responded to criticism from former colleagues in Fine Gael who said he had never produced any policy papers during his eight months in the Dail.
He said he had joined Fine Gael to contribute to the party policy rather than devising separate policies of his own.
"I didn't issue policy proposals in economic areas because they weren't my area to begin with. The idea I would have separate policies from the party -- I might as well have set up my own party," he said.
Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton said yesterday he had never heard any criticism of Fine Gael's economic strategy from Mr Lee. He said he understood that the former Dublin South TD had supported the party's budgetary strategy, its 'New Era' economic plan and its health spending plan.
"While not having an input into policy was obviously the way he perceived the problem, I don't see any criticism of policy positions that we've adopted that it could have been said 'these are irreconcilable differences'," he said.
Mr Bruton also said he had not felt "threatened" by Mr Lee and had not resisted him joining the Fine Gael front bench.
"I was looking forward to George being on the front bench because he had a lot to contribute," he said.