Farewell to a great comrade and friend Séan McGovern

Paul Ainsworth on the left with Sean McGovern
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It is with great sorrow that we announce the sudden death of our United Left comrade and friend Séan McGovern which took place on Wednesday 6 May.

Séan was very much a leading light both in the United Left since its founding (when the TGWU and Amicus merged in 2007) and prior to that for many years in the TGWU Broad Left. He was one of a small group of activists which re-energised the Region 1 Broad Left in 2003/4 and won the region for the left shortly after.

He was an active member of the regional Broad Left team which supported Tony Woodley for General Secretary in 2004 and, as the newly former United Left, Len McCluskey in 2010.

Séan was well known throughout the workers’ movement for his tireless campaigning for the rights of disabled workers. Sean was a leader in London & Eastern region, where he sat on our Regional Committee and Voluntary Sector Committees, and chaired our Disabled Members committee for many years.

He also featured nationally as chair of the TUC Disability Committee and was a Unite delegate to the TUC General Council. He was the disability rep on the Labour Party London Regional Executive Council. He represented Unite’s disabled members on our Executive Council.

Séan was an internationalist, actively supporting Palestinian self-determination and an end to sanctions on Cuba. His powerful sense of social justice drove his activism.

Séan was proud of his Irish roots, and we both shared a strong sense of being London Irish. For both of us the music of The Pogues was an inspiration, blending traditional Irish songs with music from the streets of London, summed up best as “punk-fired Irishness”.

Séan’s whole life embodied his fierce determination to ensure justice and equality for all workers but especially those with disabilities. Though often in pain and with the unending practical problems of accessibility faced on a daily basis by disabled people, his sense of humour, intelligence, level of culture and appetite for life always shone through. He never gave up the struggle, he was a fierce fighter to the end.

I would like to finish with lyrics from a Shane McGowan song, Lullaby of London, performed at a gig by the Pogues which we both attended at Brixton Academy; 

When you hear this lullaby
May the wind that blows from haunted graves
Never bring you misery

May the angels bright 
Watch you tonight
And keep you while you sleep

Jim Kelly
Chair United Left