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Should Lee have quit? YES, says Ger Gilroy

If you're feeling nostalgia for the rainy days of last summer when youthful enthusiasm or damnable naïvete seemed to wash over the body politic, you are not alone. Not as alone as George Lee felt in the Dail anyway.

Fine Gael will be in mourning over the next few weeks for someone who has publicly betrayed them. It'll be an enjoyable spectator sport for the neutrals, but when it's over they'll realise they're well shot of George Lee. Indulge your nostalgia with the highlights reel of Lee's political career and while away a few minutes dreaming about what it would be like if someone like him were to get involved ...

You'll hear a lot of people -- none of them Fine Gaelers -- saying George Lee did the right thing in the coming weeks. According to a jerked-knee straw-poll on Joe Duffy, now being cited as gospel, George Lee did the right thing. According to George Lee, George Lee did the right thing. And according to Fianna Fail. And Labour.

Regardless of who believes he did the right thing, he did the right thing by himself. A fancy job in RTE, most probably with little or no responsibility because he's politically toxic, was always going to be easier than a hard-fought trench campaign to change the country.

In the long run George Lee did the right thing by us, because we're better off without politicians too inarticulate to change their own party's minds, too dumb to realise the chance they were given and too fickle to get stuck in on behalf of his constituents and his country.


On radio all day yesterday, and on each available television programme, was a blitzkrieg of George Lee's whining, stinking every studio he graced with noxious allegations about being ignored, used and abused. He had no friends (apart from Charlie Bird), he had no impact on policies and he had to be true to himself.

Whenever he was asked about what policies he tried to change he batted away the question with skilled, practised aplomb. "This isn't the time for that", or "we'd be here all day".

That's his legacy. Nine months in politics without a single initiative being explained lucidly. Even if he was being ignored by Fine Gael's hierarchy, the rest of the country was listening. His media appearances were stilted and unfocused. "There was no mentoring," he cried.

By not having the belly for the fight, by not understanding the chance he had to bring about change, by not building his own support levels, Lee failed with a cruel predetermination. It was fated to fail because he couldn't make it work.

Lee's golden opportunity upon election was to speak over the heads of politicians and directly to the country. His alleged skills as a communicator could have seen him stitch new ideas into the public discourse without the need for laboured documents that voters never read. If he was desperate to unleash the big ideas, to alter our country's economic future all he had to do was tell us the ideas. Publish and be damned.

In his victory interview with Bryan Dobson live from the count centre Lee gave an impassioned speech which now, in retrospect, looks foolishly full of piss and vinegar.

"I have no faith in where the Government are leading us, or in the decisions they have taken. I'm not going to stand by while daily unemployment goes up by 1,000 and the Government does nothing about it.

"The banks and the public finances, they're the two things they're focusing on, they're not doing a very good job on either and they're forgetting all about the people."

Lee has forgotten about the people of South Dublin to go back to RTE. The sooner we forget about him the better. Good riddance.