| Michael McGowan |
Birkenshaw, West Yorkshire
|Alma mater||Leicester University|
|Children|| • Joseph|
Michael McGowan (born 19 May 1940) is a British journalist and a former Member of the European Parliament, with a special interest in international affairs, European politics, Africa, peace, development, and human rights.
In September 2009, a month after Abdelbaset al-Megrahi dropped the second appeal against his Lockerbie conviction, Michael McGowan wrote an article in the Yorkshire Post calling for an urgent independent inquiry led by the United Nations into the targeting of Bernt Carlsson on Pan Am Flight 103 of 21 December 1988. McGowan concluded:
- "The best tribute to the lives and families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie, including Bernt Carlsson, and the most positive action for the international community to take against terrorism, is to launch an independent inquiry into this gross act of mass murder. Nothing less will suffice."
Michael McGowan was born in the village of Birkenshaw in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His father, Edgar, was a baker at Bradford Co-op bakery and his mother, Marion, a waitress.
McGowan was educated at Birkenshaw Primary school, Heckmondwike Grammar School, and won a West Riding scholarship to Leicester University where he read History, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. He is married to Margarita and they have three grown up children, Joseph, Emily, and Sebastian and lives in Leeds.
A former BBC Television and Radio producer based in Leeds, Bristol and at the BBC Television Centre, London, Michael McGowan is a member of the National Union of Journalists.
He is the Secretary of Leeds Development Education Centre and board member of the Centre for African Studies at Leeds University.
Michael McGowan was elected a Labour Party District Councillor at the age of 21, a West Riding County Councillor at 23, and has served for 2 periods on Leeds City Council. He was Parliamentary Labour candidate for Ripon in 1966 and for Brighouse and Spenborough in 1979. He is a Director of Leeds City Credit Union, and a Director of PAFRAS - Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, and until June 2009 was a National Executive Committee member of the Co-operative Party.
In June 1984, having secured the nomination by defeating the sitting Member of the European Parliament, Derek Enright, McGowan was elected the Labour MEP for Leeds until he stood down in 1999. During those fifteen years, he served on the Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, and External Trade committees of the European Parliament and as Vice-President of the ACP EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly which links the European Union with the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.
McGowan has been a member of delegations to 37 African countries and was an EU election observer in Chad, Guinea, and Nigeria. He was a United Nations election observer at the Namibian independence elections in November 1989 and the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, when he was based in Durban. The South African city has since been twinned with Leeds, which Nelson Mandela has visited and where he has been made an honorary citizen.
Michael McGowan is the only British MEP to be elected President of the Development and Co-operation Committee of the European Parliament, a position also held by the former French Prime Minister, Michel Rocard, and French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner.
In two recent op-ed pieces in the Yorkshire Post, Michael McGowan raised a number of controversial issues. One article called for an urgent independent inquiry led by the United Nations into the Lockerbie disaster. The second article by McGowan expressed the hope that Ireland would vote against ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, thus frustrating Tony Blair's ambitions to become President of the European Council.
Urgent inquiry into Lockerbie disaster
In September 2009, Michael McGowan called for an urgent independent inquiry led by the United Nations into the Lockerbie disaster. McGowan wrote:
- "Gordon Brown is angry and repulsed at the reception that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi received in Libya. Jack Straw is angry that it has been said that the release was imposed on Scotland by London. And Peter Mandelson is angry at the claim that the prisoner release was part of a trade deal.
- "What about the anger of the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie whose tragic losses are being ignored and who are still being denied a full public inquiry into the atrocity?
- "Only one man has been convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and yet the world knows that the horrific act of terrorism was not simply the act of a single individual who acted alone. Support for an independent inquiry into Lockerbie would be welcome, besides an end to the posturing and propaganda from the United States, UK, and Libya.
- "The issues of the Libyan reception, and even the Scottish release, are sidelines compared with the need to establish the truth behind Lockerbie and the determination to root out acts of terrorism.
- "The prevention of future acts of terrorism has to be the main consideration and that is what we must demand from political leadership in the UK, Libya, the US and elsewhere.
- "The anger and revulsion of Gordon Brown at the Libyan reception of the Lockerbie bomber, though commendable, does not help. His resolve to fight and root out terrorism is welcome but only if his actions are as good as his words. Every word spoken about the Lockerbie bombing and the return of Megrahi to Libya expresses opposition to terrorism and concern for the families of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing, but no mention is made about any future action.
- "I am also personally angry at the death of Bernt Carlsson, who I was with shortly before he checked in on to Pan Am Flight 103.
- "As President of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, I had invited Bernt Carlsson, the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, to call in at Brussels in December 1988. He was on his way back to the United States from Namibia and agreed to address members of the Development Committee, which he did. In Brussels, he spoke about his hopes for an independent Namibia and the end of apartheid in South Africa to a packed meeting of MEPs.
- "And afterwards he confirmed his acceptance to visit Leeds the following year to give the 1989 Peace Lecture in honour of Olof Palme, the former Swedish Prime Minister, who was murdered in Stockholm on February 28, 1986. He said how much he was looking forward to coming to Leeds to pay tribute to his fellow Swede with whom he had worked closely as international secretary of the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, and also as a special adviser to Palme. Bernt Carlsson did not make that visit to Leeds in 1989. He was a passenger on Pan Am Flight 103 and he died when the plane was blown up over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. He was a giant of diplomacy, gentle, quiet, but a tough negotiator. His death, like that of his friend and fellow Swede, Prime Minister Palme, who was murdered in the street in Stockholm returning with his wife from a night at the cinema, was the result of a terrorist act and remains a mystery.
- "A call by the British Government for an independent inquiry led by the United Nations to find out the truth about Pan Am Flight 103 is urgently required. We owe it to the families of the victims of Lockerbie and the international community to identify those responsible. That Bernt Carlsson was on that plane should be an extra incentive for the UN to take action in view of the fact that this impressive diplomat was dealing with some of the most sensitive and violent situations being perpetrated by the brutal apartheid regime in both South Africa and Namibia, besides his work in the Middle East. The best tribute to the lives and families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie, including Bernt Carlsson, and the most positive action for the international community to take against terrorism, is to launch an independent inquiry into this gross act of mass murder. Nothing less will suffice."
Derailing Tony Blair
The second article by McGowan expressed the hope that Ireland would vote against ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, thus frustrating Tony Blair's ambitions to become President of the European Council. McGowan, fearing that ratification would nonetheless go ahead, argued in favour of a different British candidate for the presidency:
- "Chris Patten, who has to be rated as one of the more heavyweight and internationally respected UK politicians of recent times. His experience as a UK Government Minister, as European Commissioner for External Affairs with responsibility for international development, and the last Governor of Hong Kong would make him a serious candidate. The appointment of Chris Patten as the first President of the European Union would be good for Britain, good for Europe and good for the developing world. It would also signal a determination that Britain intends to play a greater part at the heart of Europe."
International Co-operative Alliance
On 15 May 2013, Michael McGowan wrote an article in the Irish newspaper Metro Eireann posing this question: "Co-ops provide a real alternative: Africa is set to host its first global co-op summit - but will Cape Town see the launch of a co-operative world revolution?"
The news that the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has chosen Cape Town in South Africa as the venue for its 2013 general assembly this November is a clear vote of confidence in Africa and the developing world. It will be the first time in the 118-year history of the ICA that its annual congress is held in Africa, and as many as 2,000 participants from 80 countries are expected to attend during the week from 1-15 November 2013.
The Cape Town summit of the world co-operative movement is an important follow-up to the 2012 United Nations Year of Co-operatives, which was marked in Ireland when the three big Irish co-op groups joined together to celebrate and promote Ireland achievements in co-operative development.
It was at a keynote event held last May in Croke Park when the president of the ICA, Pauline Green, joined Irish President Michael D Higgins in declaring that the success of co-operative enterprise in Ireland should be shared and promoted internationally.
The strong links between the ICA an the European Union have become closer in recent years and especially since the appointment of Green, a former MEP and president of the Socialist Group of the European Parliament, not to mention the recent move of the ICA head office from Geneva to Brussels.
Ireland is where the great co-op pioneer Sir Horace Plunkett transformed the rural economy by helping communities to establish communal enterprises and credit facilities. The lessons of Ireland have long since influenced co-op development across the world.
The theme of the Cape Town meeting will be built around the ‘Blueprint for a Co-operate Decade’ with the launch of a worldwide campaign for the co-op form of business to become the acknowledged leader in economic, social, and environmental sustainability and the fastest growing form of enterprise by 2020.
This summit is also expected to provide an opportunity to discuss real alternatives to the present world economic set-up, which has led to extreme poverty, inequality, climate change, and a situation where international crime and terrorism prevail.
The choice of Cape Town – just across the water from where thousands of black opponents of apartheid were held on Robben Island, including Nelson Mandela – is a significant reminder that democracy, equality, and human rights are central to development.
When I was first elected president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, infrastructures, roads, and dams tended to dominate much of the EU thinking on development. But today there is a greater awareness of the importance in development of the co-operative values of human rights, democracy, transparency, equality and the role of civil society.
Many years before I was elected a member of the European Parliament I became interested in the commitment by President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania to co-operative development, and this was further stimulated by my brief time in the early 1980s at the Co-operative College in Moshi, near Kilimanjaro, which today is the Moshi University College of Co-operative and Business Studies.
The world economic crisis brought about by the collapse of the banking and regulatory systems, and the bullying of developing countries by the World Bank and the IMF into cutting public services and promoting privatisation, raises issues as to whether a mutual and co-operative economic alternative is appropriate. I am convinced that a strong Irish presence in Cape Town would have so much to contribute to the debate on the relevance of self-help and mutual and co-operative enterprise as an alternative to the current world economic system, which has led to austerity and deprivation for so many of the citizens of the world.
- "European Parliament: Your MEPs"
- "Megrahi release and the House of Lords"
- "The Co-operative Membership - Michael McGowan, Leeds"
- "Guide to the European elections, 1984"
- "Michael McGowan: The best tribute to the 270 victims of Lockerbie is to find out the truth"
- "Michael McGowan: We should be at the heart of Europe, but not with Tony Blair as President"
- "Co-ops provide a real alternative: Africa is set to host its first global co-op summit - but will Cape Town see the launch of a co-operative world revolution, asks Michael McGowan"