Did George Lee think he was going to be catapulted onto the front bench of Fine Gael without earning his stripes? Obviously he did. This whole debacle raises questions of the undoubted ability of celebrity candidates earning votes but then truly understanding what it takes to serve in public life.
What’s hilarious about all of this is that Lee was an RTÉ journalist, one of the country’s elite story getters who was never afraid to put the hard questions to politicians, but when the gamekeeper turned poacher he wasn’t able to stand the heat and sprinted from the kitchen.
No one doubts that George Lee had a lot to offer, but if he was so insistent on shaping and changing the country’s economic policy he joined the wrong party.
Fine Gael aren’t in government but when the chance finally arises, which those aligned to the party are insistent isn’t too far away, he would have been given the opportunity.
But instead he chose to give up, bow out, and ultimately let down the thousands of constituents who voted for him and put their faith in him only nine months ago.
Brian Dobson’s line of questioning to Fine Gael front bencher Olivia Mitchell on the Six One news on RTÉ on Monday smacked of the Dublin city journalism which has sought to undermine Kenny as leader since he took up the position.
He kept putting it to Dep Mitchell that Enda shouldn’t have waited until Lee told the party leader of his intention to resign to offer him a front bench position in the next re-shuffle.
But why would he have offered him any such position any sooner? Party members were mostly under the impression that Lee was in line for a top role within the party, as were the public at large.
Voters from the former economic editor’s constituency of South Dublin have been critical of the party leader. This is to be expected. But since Lee’s shock announcement, the party have rallied behind their leader, although rumblings would indicate the noose has been tightened and he must stand up to the plate if he is to become the next taoiseach.
A specific economic committee was set up for Lee. What other newcomer would be given such responsibility and shown such respect?
On a leave of absence from RTÉ, Lee can return to the company but is not guaranteed his old job back. The national broadcaster might send him off to Washington to replace Charlie Bird, who is clearly unhappy out there.
A cynical person would wonder if Lee entered politics wearing rose tinted glasses but found that to effect change takes much longer than expected, especially when you are the opposition, and so he decided to return to RTÉ while the opportunity was still open to him. All this was then masked by a whinging statement talking about his personal unfulfillment. Maybe the overhaul in TDs’ expenses weren’t to his liking either.
Whatever the rumblings about Kenny’s leadership, his front bench unanimously endorsed him in this position following a meeting on Tuesday morning and the parliamentary party on Wednesday night. It’s onwards and upwards for Kenny. Lee is the loser in this situation.
Toni Bourke Editor [email protected]