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Friday 19 January 2018

Former TD tired of his role as 'crowd-puller' for party

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

FORMER Fine Gael TD George Lee yesterday blamed his limited and unfulfilling role in the party as the key reason for his departure.

He said he had "zero impact" on party policy during his nine-month membership and that he was being used a "crowd puller" by Fine Gael at public meetings. And although Mr Lee was previously able to deliver his verdict on the Government's Budget as RTE's economics editor, he was unable to speak about it on the Dail on December 9 last.

Fine Gael's position was represented by its finance spokesman Richard Bruton and his deputy Kieran O'Donnell. Mr Lee had to wait until the following night to get a brief opportunity to comment on one aspect of the Budget -- the social welfare cutbacks.

His frustration at this was growing and it is understood that he was expressing this in confidence to at least one Fine Gael backbencher last week.

In a series of media interviews yesterday, Mr Lee said Mr Bruton and others in Fine Gael had not looked for his advice "on anything". He had received no "mentoring" from the party; and even though he was a team player, he didn't have any team.

Mr Lee said he did not want a front-bench position -- only to be given the chance to influence the party's economic policy and not be "shut out".

"Here I was in the middle of the greatest economic collapse the country had seen and nine months had gone by and I had had no impact at all. I was completely silent," he said.

Neither Mr O'Donnell nor Mr Bruton, who was in Leinster House yesterday morning, could be contacted for comment yesterday about Mr Lee's statements. Mr Lee complained he had been appointed to chair a party economic committee by leader Enda Kenny without consultation. And he also dismissed his role at the party's public meetings on the economy.

"Being a crowd puller can be quite a hollow thing unless you're involved in the process," he said. But Fine Gael last night dismissed Mr Lee's complaints.

A party spokesman said Mr Lee had been involved in the briefings with Mr Bruton and Mr O'Donnell and that he had the opportunity of contributing to party policy at parliamentary party meetings.

Irish Independent

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