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Sue Sharkey, Labour activist who had ‘boundless energy’, dies aged 52

Party’s branch secretary was passionate campaigner

01 November, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Sue Sharkey (standing, second from left) with friends at the Thornhill Road Gardens

A LABOUR activist has been described as ­“irreplaceable” after she passed away aged 52.

Sue Sharkey, who was secretary of the Barnsbury branch of the party, had “boundless energy” and it was an in-joke that she was one of the fastest walkers among canvassing sessions.

She would power down streets knocking on doors, with fellow campaigners stumbling behind her trying to keep up.

Barnsbury ward councillor Rowena Champion, who became close friends with Ms Sharkey during the 2010 general election campaign, said:

“One time we asked her to join us for campaigning in the afternoon.

“She said she had a half-marathon in the morning, so she just needed to do that first, then she would join. Which she did.”

Cllr Champion added: “She had this boundless energy. She would just take on any task with a positive attitude. She is irreplaceable, I really mean that and I will miss her a lot.”

Ms Sharkey, who lived in Calshot Street, was born in Liverpool.

The family – Ms Sharkey had a sister, Ann-Marie, and a brother, Karl – later moved to Warrington, Cheshire.

But at the age of 18, she moved down to ­London to prepare herself to join the Army.

Ms Sharkey was part of the intelligence core for four years, serving in Germany and Northern Ireland in the early 1990s.

Sue Sharkey (centre)

Ann-Marie said: “I met a lot of people at the funeral who didn’t know she had been in the Army. Sue had lots of friends from different parts of her life and she would keep her different groups of friends quite separate.”

She left the Army after four years and went to study history and politics at Westfield ­College, Queen Mary University of London.

After a stint at HMRC, she had planned to move to the US with her boyfriend in 2001. He was in the building next to the Twin Towers when the planes hit on September 11. Her boyfriend survived but the subsequent crackdown on immigration put a halt to her plans to move.

Ms Sharkey then took a job at the London School of Economics supporting students and helping with daily administration.

It is not known when she joined the Labour Party but the first time she mentioned it to Ann-Marie was when she was campaigning with MP Emily Thornberry ­during the close-run 2010 general election.

Ann-Marie, who is a Liberal Democrat councillor in Woking, said: “She had some slightly different views on things, but it made for very interesting discussions.”

She added: “Sue loved helping her students.

“She could have her quiet moments, but on the whole she was a social person.

“She was adventurous. She travelled around the world to remote islands and she flew on the Concorde.

“I think one of her proudest moments was when she was studying for her A-levels and she fundraised an expedition to Alaska.”

Ms Sharkey’s funeral was held in the Islington Crematorium, in East Finchley, on Friday. A wake was held in the Old White Lion pub.

A fundraiser has been set up to create a pond and flower bed in her memory at Thornhill Road Gardens.

More than £1,300 of the £2,000 target has been raised so far.

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