Politics, perseverance, personal loss and optimism

Seamus Rodgers retains a keen political intellect, effortlessly maneuvering through a labyrinth of names, dates, and events with a precision that would put men half his age to shame.

Born on January 22, 1934, Seamus celebrated his 90th birthday just last month. The Rosses has long reaped the rewards of his unwavering commitment to selfless politics and activism throughout the decades.

The nonagenarian graciously agreed to sit down with Donegal News, at his home in Annagry, to recount his rich experiences, delving into his encounters and connections with both political and sporting legends.


Seamus reveals his gratitude at having survived the Covid-19 pandemic, and now, fully recovered, he reflects on reaching such a significant age.

“I don’t feel 90 to be quite honest with you. I take one day at a time. I was in Letterkenny hospital with Covid. At the time some people died and you didn’t hear about it until much later. I was damn lucky to bounce back again when I had it and the fella who helped me is an American doctor.

I actually asked him if he was from Derry or Letterkenny and he responded, ‘I was born in Ohio’. He worked non-stop with me for three days and managed to clear the Covid. He would come in each night and morning to see if things were all right.

In all fairness to the nurses, they were also very good,” said Seamus.

Based on a modest farm, Mary and Eddie Rodgers had two sons and two daughters, Seamus being the eldest. While his two sisters are still alive, sadly, his brother Joe passed away a decade ago.

“I’ve been living in Anagaire all my life. After attending the vocational school in Loughanure, with people from as far away as Ballyshannon, I went to work in the Templecrone co-op here in Annagry. Not long after that I moved to Kincasslagh, and then Burtonport.

“Later, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union contacted me to say they wanted a meeting. They agreed that I would be part of what is now SIPTU.


“I was in a union from the first day in Templecrone so I already knew all the people. I knew retired trade union leader Des Geraghty who was an MEP for a time. I knew a lot of people like that,” explained Seamus.

His tenure as a union representative laid the groundwork for an extensive political career. While he achieved numerous successes at the local level, his aspirations to represent Donegal in Dáil Éireann were thwarted on several occasions. This was largely attributed to his steadfast refusal to align with the traditionally dominant parties in Donegal.

“I started with Sinn Féin but not Sinn Féin in its current form. At that stage the party wouldn’t entertain Leinster House or the House of Commons. It was just abstention.

“I was then in the Workers’ Party, then Democratic Left, and finally the Labour Party.

“About the general elections, the electorate were tied up to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil but I topped the poll in areas like Arranmore and Fintown in the last 3 elections I ran in. Glenties was a good area for me too,” recalls Seamus.

In a remarkable feat, Seamus held a seat within Donegal County Council HQ in Lifford for almost four decades. Despite his enduring presence, he reflects with a hint of regret on the elusive nature of the Cathaoirleach position, a title that always seemed to evade him.

“I did a lot of work for people. There’s no doubt about that, and I didn’t ask them about their politics or anything else.

“I got a lot of work done in the county council even though Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would never give me the chairperson role. It was all Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil at that stage, there’s no doubt about it.

“However, I was speaking to a Fine Gael man the other day who used to be at the count centres and I take it he was giving me his number 2. I know that both Catholics and Protestants voted for me,” claims Seamus.

Throughout the trials and tribulations of political turmoil and the common challenges of everyday life, Seamus found unwavering support in his wife, Theresa. The couple married in 1963, but their joy was short-lived as they faced heartache with the loss of their first child at birth. Seamus reflects on feeling blessed with the subsequent birth of a healthy baby girl.

“Yes, Theresa is still with us. She’s currently in Letterkenny and hopefully will be home soon. My daughter Rosemary is a solicitor in Sligo. She does a lot of work for me, giving help and everything like that.”

In addressing the current state of affairs, Seamus points out various shortcomings that disproportionately affect the local population, showing yet again that his political brain remains sharp.

“The people of Donegal got a bit but they know they’re neglected. They have been doing road improvements which is right enough but it was a big mistake to pull away the railway tracks; Donegal, Fermanagh, Monaghan – no railways.

“Things have moved forward but a lot of people have emigrated due to a lack of work opportunities. For example, many talented young footballers have ended up in Australia, the United States, and other places. On this, things have just gone downhill.

The Gaeilgeoir also holds steadfast opinions regarding the Labour Party, to which he dedicated so much time and effort over the years. Seamus specifically referenced Pat Rabbitte’s 2015 announcement of his departure from politics, citing the complete breakdown in relations between Mr. Rabbitte and the then Labour leader, Joan Burton.

“He could have retained his seat back then but he was soured out and Burton had annoyed him. I often had good discussions with Pat Rabbitte. He was very good.”

However, clearly there is no love lost between Seamus and another former Labour leader. Eamon Gilmore was forced to resign as party leader after Labour lost heavily in local and European Parliament elections in May 2014. The party has failed to bounce back since.

“I blame Eamon Gilmore for the whole thing because Labour had over 30 TDs at one stage. The bloody man didn’t run himself the next time. The other poor divils ran and lost their seats,” recalls Seamus.

During our extensive interview to commemorate his 90th birthday, we delved into his views on who he believes was or is the best Taoiseach Ireland ever had.

“It’s hard to know, maybe Enda Kenny. Some of the rest like Haughey, well.”

Seamus is keen to point out that he hasn’t fully retired just yet, and he maintains a rightful sense of optimism about the future.

“I’m still actively involved in the Islands Committee, which I founded during my time on the council. A fella from Ardara reckons I’ll make it to 100, and in fact, I had an uncle living over the road who lived to be 100,” Seamus concluded with a hearty laugh.

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