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Bird's post may be only vacancy, but he must apply

GEORGE LEE is being tipped to take over from his pal Charlie Bird as Washington correspondent.

But he will have to apply and go through the same process as every other reporter at the station if he wants the plum post.

Station bosses are desperately seeking an appropriate job for the ex-politician but their choices are limited.

The Herald has learned that Lee might not be allowed to return to his €150,000 staff job until May because at the moment he is "surplus to requirement".

His old job has been filled and there aren't many onscreen slots that a journalist in his position could fill -- with the exception of the upcoming vacancy in Washington.

Lee hasn't ruled out making another big career move and even joked about the idea with colleagues when he returned to the station on Monday for a Six-One News interview.

Lee is said to have quipped: "And Charlie could come back and stand for Fine Gael."

However, a spokesperson for RTE said: "The appointment to Washington will be as a result of an internal competition.

"It will be a board competition, a notice will go up and people will have to apply and be interviewed."

There may also be a difficulty over when Lee returns to RTE as his leave of absence does not end until May. The Herald understands that there is no legal requirement on the station to take him back any earlier, even though he wrote to news chief Ed Mulhall on Monday.