The national broadcaster last night accepted there would be a conflict of interest in the former Fine Gael TD taking up a position as a journalist in the newsroom.
But a spokesperson said there are no rules or codes preventing this from happening.
The former economics editor said he wants to go back to his old workplace, where he was one of the most prominent journalists before leaving last May to carve out a career in politics. “I could go back to RTÉ but I’m not sure in what capacity I will end up,” he said.
The newsroom currently needs to fill the shoes of Lee’s old friend Charlie Bird, who will return from Washington shortly and the position of Europe Editor left vacant in Brussels when Seán Whelan returned home to succeed Lee as economics editor.
After handing in his resignation to the Clerk of the Dáil, Lee wrote to the RTÉ director of news, Ed Mulhall, yesterday afternoon to indicate his intention to return. Mr Lee did not deny he would be interested in the Washington position, but said: “I’ll get over this bridge first.”
The door has always been left open for him since he availed of a sabbatical, which was due to expire in May and run into an indefinite leave of absence to run for as long as he wished to remain in politics.
“The normal situation is that a member of staff on leave of absence is assured of employment within RTÉ on their return, but not necessarily in the position which they left,” a spokesperson said. They are also entitled to go back to their same grade of title and pay.
Asked if there could be a conflict of interest involved in him becoming a reporter, a spokesperson for RTÉ said: “Yes. Anything that involved specific party politics would be an issue.”
When asked yesterday if his former boss, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, would make a good Taoiseach, Mr Lee said: “I may well be back in RTÉ soon and I’m not supposed to have any political views any more.”
But he said his political involvement would not be damaging to RTÉ if he were to return: “I don’t know what I’m going back to do. I may not be broadcasting, who knows,” he said.
“I don’t see how it could damage RTÉ. I spent nine months during the biggest economic crisis the country has ever known trying to help, trying to do something in relation to that. If that damages RTÉ then RTÉ is very fragile. It’s a much stronger organisation than one person or one individual,” he said.