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RTE gets letter confirming former TD's return

RTE LAST night confirmed it has received official confirmation from George Lee that he will be returning to work at the broadcaster.

However, the station's former economics editor made no mention of a return date in his letter to RTE, which was received by station bosses just one day after Mr Lee's shock resignation from the Dail.

He is currently on unpaid leave from RTE, but that is due to expire at the start of May. And the former Fine Gael TD is now expected to return on that date, though his new role in RTE remains undecided.

"There's the obvious editorial consideration to take into account for anyone who has been in a political position in terms of what immediate position he will take up," an RTE spokeswoman told the Irish Independent.

"We got the letter on Tuesday but it was just a formal letter with no mention of a return date."

Mr Lee has himself admitted that a return to an economics portfolio is an impossibility given his recent role as a Fine Gael TD. And it is expected he will be placed in a kind of 'quarantine' for a period before he is able to resume a journalism or production role.

However, RTE said it was unclear how long that 'quarantine' would last. Sources at the broadcaster indicated it was "simply too soon" to say what his new role might be. Mr Lee will nonetheless return to RTE on his full salary, believed to be in the region of €150,000.

There are two high-profile vacancies within the RTE newsroom: the post to be vacated after Charlie Bird's early return from Washington, and a post in Brussels since Sean Whelan took over the economics portfolio.

RTE sources believe it is unlikely that Mr Lee would be appointed to either position even though his short stint in the opposition ranks would have little impact on his perceived objectivity in either role.

Punters believe otherwise, however, with one bookmaker cutting its odds on Mr Lee replacing Mr Bird in Washington from 5/1 to 9/4.

The Washington correspondent position is highly sought after despite Mr Bird's difficult time in the US. Mr Lee would have to apply for the position, and would face tough competition from others.

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