Séan Rogers MLA, South Down SDLP election candidate, speaking to Down News, explained that he is looking forward to being returned in the Assembly election on Thursday and continuing with the important work that lies ahead for the new administration. He has been an active MLA and raised a number of issues on the floor of the Assembly and in committees.
But who is Séan Rogers, a mild mannered man from the Mournes? Séan has spent over thirty years in the teaching profession and was a mathematics teacher and latterly was the principal of St Louis Grammar School in Kilkeel when he was forced into early retirement in 2007 with a cancer diagnosis. Despite this setback, he has fought back to good health and become even more engaged in politics with his constituency work and at Stormont.
Séan said: “I have been a member of the SDLP for nearly thirty years, but took a backseat during my teaching career. In 2012 I vacated my seat on Newry and Mourne District Council to take on the position of South Down MLA replacing Margaret Ritchie MP in the Assembly when she continued on as MP.
“I am passionate about education and have been the party Educational Spokesperson until recently when I was appointed Vice Chair of the Assembly’s Agricultural Committee. Like everyone else, I’m deeply frustrated by many of the Stormont antics that take place, but what has fulfilled me in my job is, along with my dedicated staff, making a positive difference to well over 2000 constituents a year through the work of my constituency office in Newcastle.
“Faith and family are also very important to me. I’m an active member of my Parish community and enjoy my work as an ACCORD marriage course facilitator. The highlight of my faith journey was meeting Pope Francis last summer. It is a very private faith that sustains me through life’s challenges. I believe in the protection of human life from conception to natural death, peri natal hospice care for babies who have life-limiting conditions and proper counselling services for parents of these babies. And women who have conceived through traumatic circumstances, must become a priority.
“My family all work outside Northern Ireland. Two of our children work in Dublin, two work in London and one in Vancouver. The fact that our four daughters and one son all work away from home has brought home to my wife Rosemary and myself on a daily basis – just like so many local families have experienced – that we are educating our children for export. We need to have a new vision and ambition for our economy in order to create the opportunities for our young people to stay here or come back home and make a positive contribution to society.
“Teaching has been a vocation for me, something I miss daily. But if we are to get it right for all our young people, then under-achievement has to be addressed early in a child’s educational journey.
“I have a keen interest in all things rural. I’m a keen GAA supporter and I see it as not just a sporting organisation but as the ‘glue’ that keeps rural communities alive. Farming is my ‘get away’, my hobby, and I have a small farm and keep a flock of pedigree Lleyn sheep. Farming is in my blood and although I took a break from it during my time as a school principal, I knew I would return to it and I really enjoy it now.
“I’m acutely aware of all the challenges facing the farming and fishing industry but we must target support to ensure producers receive a fair price and their quality produce and that it is properly marketed . The agri-foods industry is a major player in the Northern Ireland economy and BREXIT would be disastrous for our ‘fledging economy’.
“The EU bureaucracy needs to be reduced, but we all know that the British Government will not fill the funding gap created by an exit from the EU, so we need to stay in Europe and fix it from within.
“And as someone who has experienced the health service first hand, I believe that development of services at the Downe and Daisy Hill hospitals and our GP Services is a must for South Down. We deserve much better than we are receiving at the moment.
“We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, but more needs to be done to develop the tourist potential of the Mournes and St Patrick’s Country, which is a unique product recognised across the world.”
Just then, Séan looked at his watch and remembered… time to feed his two pet lambs and the rest of the flock. And then he has to attend to the political hustings as the clock ticks closer to the election on Thursday.