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'He didn't make friends and looked down on us'

GEORGE Lee was hailed as the "Angry Man for Angry People" before amassing 27,768 votes in a landslide by-election nine months ago.

And yet the perceived man of the people never made friends among the Fine Gael parliamentary party that treated him as the Messiah who had matched the record breaking vote-getting of Taoiseach Brian Cowen in 1984.

"We didn't see much of him. He didn't mix. He didn't engage. If we went for coffee in the Dail after the Order of Business, which we often do, he virtually never came. He never seemed to make friends," one TD said last night.

"At parliamentary party meetings, he looked down on some of us who might be discussing constituency issues and the minutiae of politics. He would prefer to concentrate on long-winded discussions on economics. He didn't necessarily have different views on the economy but he never put them across in a coherent way," another TD said.

And so, George Lee (47) divided his political colleagues in their assessment of his place and purpose within the party. While some TDs last night described him as a "phenomenal communicator", others claimed he was "isolated" and "non-engaging" when the tapes weren't rolling.

Observers last night claimed Mr Lee became increasingly unhappy and frustrated within Fine Gael after he was allocated just 10 minutes out of some 1,740 minutes debating time on the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) Bill.

On entering Leinster House last year, Mr Lee came armed with vast experience.

The son of a motor mechanic and hairdresser, Mr Lee came from modest beginnings in Templeogue, Co Dublin, attending the non-fee paying Christian Brothers' School in Ballyroan before leaving school to join the civil service as an executive officer in the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Returning to education, he obtained an economics degree in University College Dublin (UCD).

He later completed a Masters in Economics in the prestigious London School of Economics.

After a stint lecturing in NUI Galway and working in the research department of the Central Bank, Mr Lee finally made his foray into journalism with the 'Sunday Business Post', before taking up a position with Riada Stockbrokers.

In 1996 he became RTE's economics editor.

Last May, rather than continue to diagnose the country's economic problems, he sought to help solve them.

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"I'm obviously going to be tried in relation to my thick skin," the economics guru said, adding that he reckoned it was "thick enough".

But despite his impatience for change, he never took the opportunity to engage in a "whinge and moan fest" with his colleagues.

One of his colleagues yesterday claimed the decision was testament to the "major ego".

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