One of Ireland’s best known television journalists has announced that he is to run for a seat in the Irish parliament.
George Lee, an economist and a household name in Ireland, said Tuesday that he would run for the main opposition party, Fine Gael, in a forthcoming by-election in South Dublin.
He told the Irish broadcaster, RTE – where he himself has been an employee for the past 17 years – that “I want to make sure that the country get’s a better Government.”
“It is now time for me to move on . . . to participate and help put the country back together,” Lee said.
Lee has made a name for himself in Ireland for his often gloomy prophecies about the Irish economy. This has led to him being occasionally lampooned as a “dismal scientist” but ultimately, as the current dire state of the Irish economy shows, he was proved absolutely right.
He is also admired for his ability to break down complex macroeconomics and explain them in lay man’s terms.
Along with his RTE colleague Charlie Bird, he broke one of the biggest stories in the 1990s when he uncovered an overcharging and tax evasion scandal at a bank called National Irish Bank, which resulted in him being named Irish Journalist of the Year in 1998.
In his RTE interview today, he rejected any suggestions that his decision to join Fine Gael may have influenced his reporting. He said he had reported without “fear or favor.”
In a statement issued today, Lee said that he had consistantly highlighted the risks of inaction and of complacency in handling the economy.
“These warnings were ignored. Instead the Government chose to portray them as an effort to talk down the economy. It is now too late to warn, too late to turn back the clock, too late to undo the damage that has been done to countless victims of this economic crash,” Lee said.
“The damage to the economic and social fabric of our country is devastating,” he continued.
“I have absolutely no confidence at all that the people who led us into this economic catastrophe are capable of leading us out. Ireland needs an alternative – an energetic new Government…to ensure prosperity and confidence is restored.”
His party leader, Enda Kenny, said that Lee's decision to seek public office “is an act of courage and displays a real faith in the potential of politics to change and improve lives.”
The by-election will take place June 5.