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Should Lee have quit? NO, says Miriam Donohoe

George Lee would have done the country -- and himself -- a better service if he had stuck it out longer in politics, rather than running back to RTE after just eight months as a TD.

Lee's jilting of Fine Gael and his resignation from the Dail yesterday left many people gobsmacked. But really it should not have come as such a huge surprise.

During Christmas, the political novice gave a very strong hint in an interview on RTE Radio 1 that he was disillusioned with the job, and frustrated that he didn't have the platform and scope he had expected in shaping Fine Gael's economic policy.

A household name as RTEs economics editor, Lee had high ambitions for himself when he decided to take the political plunge to contest the Dublin South by-election last June for Fine Gael.


There was a great chance then that the current Government would not last the year, with Lee tipped as a minister in a Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

That, however, is not how it turned out.

The Government increased its chances of going full-term by getting over the triple obstacles of NAMA, Lisbon, and Budget 2010, leaving Lee facing a longer time as part of the opposition before his ambitions of a seat on the governing cabinet could be fulfilled.

Clearly Lee didn't understand the nature of politics and the fact that the hum-drum existence of a backbench opposition TD is far removed from the spotlight of RTE television news.

He was yesterday quick to lay the finger of blame at Fine Gael and accuse the party of not giving him an input. But he has not made it clear what form and shape this input would take.

He wanted to have a say in the future direction of the country's economy.

This was only going to happen when he got into Government.

In the meantime he should have used his time to get to know the political ropes, and to work with his colleagues in Fine Gael to come up with an alternative plan to that of the Government.

Was it that George believed he was the political messiah who was going to solve all the economic ills in this country? Did he get carried away on the tide of Leemania that swept Dublin South during the election campaign, which saw him mobbed in shopping centres and housing estates on the hustings?

Lee wasn't completely invisible during his short term in politics. He took a lot of the Fine Gael lead on NAMA, helped formulate the party's budget document and was appointed as the chair of a new economic policy committee. It was up to him to make use of the committee but he never actually called a meeting.

It is an honour to be elected to the Dail. And being a good politician requires more than ideas and policies, it requires commitment, stamina, and a strong political head.

George Lee has thrown in the towel after only eight months -- and in doing so he has let Fine Gael down, done a disservice to politics, and to the electorate of Dublin South, who put their faith and hope in him in such huge numbers last June.

It's ironic that another RTE journalist, Charlie Bird, who with Lee broke the National Irish Bank (NIB) overcharging story more than 10 years ago, is also missing the limelight after he was posted to Washington a year ago. He announced last week, however, that he is returning to the RTE newsroom this summer.

While Charlie will be able to settle back into his old beat as special news correspondent, George will presumably have to serve a decontamination period before he can slot back to a high-profile news role.

If he found it frustrating in the opposition wilderness, he might surely find it even more challenging being back in the employment of RTE and not having the same high profile on the airwaves that he enjoyed before his dalliance with politics.