Entertainment Television

Wednesday 19 June 2019

RTÉ announces new Agriculture Correspondent as George Lee thanks farmers for 'the happy memories'

George Lee
George Lee
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Prime Time reporter Fran McNulty has been announced as RTÉ's new agriculture and consumer affairs correspondent as his predecessor George Lee says it was time for him to "change my focus" from agriculture.

Presently, Mr Lee is the Agriculture and Environment Correspondent for the broadcaster. However, RTÉ bosses decided to change their correspondent positions, and recently advertised for a Agriculture and Consumer Affairs correspondent, and an Environment and Science Correspondent.

Fran McNulty is appointed as new Agriculture and Consumer Affairs correspondent for RTE News 11/06/19
Fran McNulty picture during a Prime Time report broadcast last week on the impact of insurance fraud on the health service.
Fran McNulty is appointed as new Agriculture and Consumer Affairs correspondent for RTE News 11/06/19 Fran McNulty picture during a Prime Time report broadcast last week on the impact of insurance fraud on the health service.

Fran McNulty, who has also presented Radio One's flagship 'Morning Ireland' programme, was announced as the new Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Correspondent in a statement issued this evening.

Fran, who is from Co Longford, began his career in local radio with Shannonside before joining RTÉ in 2005.

His time in Montrose has seen him report on numerous criminal court cases, the fall of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, the election of Enda Kenny, and coverage from the Mahon Tribunal.

Most recently, Fran's journalism on Prime Time has looked at public spending, examined abuses in the fishing industry, exposed significant issues in the agricultural and food production sectors, and looked at a range of issues within the insurance industry, including fraud.

"It is a tremendous honour to be appointed as a Correspondent for RTÉ News. The new portfolio is key to RTÉ's remit as a public service broadcaster, I look forward to examining the issues facing the agri sector, at a most challenging and difficult time," said Fran.

"In particular I am thrilled that RTÉ News has decided to focus on consumer affairs, we will give voice to consumers and look at the challenges facing people. This new role will look at what we earn, how we spend it, what we eat and how it is produced. I am aware that I follow many great agricultural journalists in the newsroom like George Lee and Joe O'Brien, it's a challenge I am very much looking forward to meeting."

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He is expected to take up his new role in the summer.

RTÉ say they will announce their new Environment and Science Correspondent shortly.

George Lee has been the Agricultural and Environment Correspondent for the past five years.

George wished his colleague Fran well in his new role, while stating he wished to move his focus away agriculture, thanking Irish farmers for the "happy memories".

"I would also like to thank those in the farming community and in the wider Agri-Food sector for all their help and assistance, and for their warmth and acceptance over the five years during which I have covered the agriculture brief for RTÉ News," he said. 

"I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the role and the experience. However, now that RTÉ has reviewed its correspondencies I have decided it is the right time for me to change my focus from agriculture. The happy memories I have of my interactions with so many farmers will remain with me."

RTÉ say that George will continue working for their news service - but in what role?

George came to public prominence when he was Economics Editor for RTÉ, at a time when Ireland plunged into recession.

However, he decided to quit this role to enter politics in May 2009, taking a year's unpaid leave of absence from RTÉ.

George Lee stood for Fine Gael in the Dublin South by-election, winning a seat for the party.

However, just 10 months later in February 2010, he sensationally quit politics.

Speaking to RTE's 'News At One' programme at the time, he said he had wanted to play a part in informing Fine Gael economic policy.

"For the last nine months I've done my best to have an influence on that, but I have to confess that I have virtually no influence no input whatsoever," he said.

"I was appointed chairman of an economic forum without my consultation whatsoever - which wasn't the role at all which I wanted to play."

He added that he would "probably be going back to RTÉ".

He returned to the RTÉ newsroom in May 2010, and had to undergo a period of "quarantine" due to his previous political position.

He then returned to the airwaves with a programme called 'Mind Your Business' on Radio One.

In 2012, it was announced he was joining Prime Time for their business segments, and in 2014, he was unveiled as their new Agriculture and Environment Correspondent.

So could a return to his old post as Economics Editor be on the cards? Sean Whelan - the current economics editor - has been announced as the station's new London Correspondent and this role has yet to be filled. So George could be back on the beat that made him a household name ten years ago.

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