Born in April 1932, Irene Swann was educated at Northumberland County Modern School. She qualified as a registered nurse at which she worked in Edinburgh. In her youth, she was the Chair of the Scottish Young Communist League (YCL).
Having joined the Communist Party in 1955, she stood in the Edinburgh municipal elections in May 1962, securing 170 votes in Gorgie-Dalry ward. Fellow communist candidates included Michael D'Arcy (Craigmillar), John Ashton (Holyrood), Charles McManus (Pilton),and Theodore C Taylor in Central Leith.
A member of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party from 1965, she stood as a candidate for the Party in West Lothian constituency in 1964 and in 1966.
She became a health visitor and was later elected a member of the Executive Committee of the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE).
At the age of 39, she became the first woman chair of the Communist Party’s Executive Committee in 1972, for a short period.
The mother of two and wife of an Edinburgh architect, Swann became linked to Ron Keating, Assistant General Secretary of NUPE in an intrusive, mutually damaging news story, in 1979.
Sources: Express and Star 13th August 1979, M Walker, CPGB Archives, Morning Star January 10th 1972, and other sources