Read our coverage of how Sister Michele O’Leary was honored and remembered.


The Common Ground

Vol. IV, Issue 3


      March 2006



                 News Updates






letter from the editor




St. Patrick's season is upon us once again.  Last week's parade here in Pittsburgh went off with great fanfare, and according to police reports revelers were generally well behaved.  Celebrations continue this week in Pittsburgh, around the United States, and in Ireland.  Taoiseach Bertie Ahern arrived in Washington DC to present the annual Shamrock bowl to President Bush.  Politicians from Ireland and the US will meet to celebrate the season and discuss issues of mutual interest to their constituencies. They hope to resolve or at least contribute to the debates over America's illegal alien population, especially those of Irish birth living in the shadows after September 11, 2001. They'll also pay mutual lip service to US/EU cooperation, and the Northern Ireland political stalemate.


Of greater importance, but apparently less urgency, is what to do next.


Ireland, North and South, is a different place than the war-torn, impoverished island we sought to help at the dawn of the troubles.  The war is over.  The economy is robust.  At some point, soon I hope, Ireland and the United States will agree that their collective experience in resolving a serious conflict and establishing a sound economy is worth sharing with today's nations in despair.


A concerted effort from the two governments could bring lasting peace and economic development to places like the Balkans, Cyprus, the African continent, several Asian countries, Central and South America, and yes, someday, the Middle East.  Such effort would serve as a better memorial to the life and mission of our beloved St. Patrick than a parade, a party, and a pounding morning-after headache.


A few months ago the New York Times reported that one third of the global population survives on next to nothing.  That means two billion people.  Another report projected that over the next decade, forty-one million impoverished children will die before their fifth birthday.  Meanwhile, war rages in these underdeveloped countries and elsewhere thanks to misguided hatred, ignorance, and fear among neighbors, greed among the wealthy elite in their own countries, and apathy among the developed nations of the world, discouraging contact between the rivaling communities, with no hope for peace and mutual understanding.


In Nigeria, for example, the fifth largest oil supplier to the United States and Africa's most populous country, conflict is escalating.  Kidnappings, arsons, bombings and clashes between Christians and Muslims have led to reductions in oil production.  This country's Niger Delta region is rich with oil.  But its inhabitants are among the poorest on earth.  Oil companies are indifferent to these inequities and authorities there are undoubtedly corrupt.  According to another New York Times report, "the militants who claim to represent the Delta people have evolved into criminal gangs, adept at stealing huge amounts of oil to sell on black markets, the proceeds of which are used to buy ever more sophisticated weapons."


Similar horror is found in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Haiti, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere, each with their specific cultural twists, yet all with common symptoms—a vicious cycle of poverty, corruption, greed, violence and death. So it is, as it was in Ireland not long ago.  Somehow the US government and its counterparts in Ireland and Britain found a way to facilitate change there without going to war.


This St. Patrick's Day, I implore readers to respond, as Patrick did fifteen hundred years ago, to reach out to a place that only knows pain. Study the nuances and varied histories of those who today call themselves enemies.  Encourage our leaders to transform them to worthy and honorable political opponents, ending the war and winning the peace.  And as you toast St. Patrick for all he did to shape the heritage you hold dear, toast yourself for helping to save and shape the lives of those less fortunate.


Happy St. Patrick's Day


Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh



Sr. Michele O’Leary, co-founder of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh, was honored with a tribute and memorial service in Ireland.  See below for more information.

Check out the updates on current events in Ireland and at home in the News section.

View our St. Patrick’s Day events coverage in the Lifestyles section and the Events section.



The New Hope Center in Enniskillen, Fermanagh County was officially renamed the Michele O’Leary New Hope Centre on Wednesday, February 22nd.  This tribute marks the life of a beloved and dedicated advocate for peace and reconciliation.  Sister Michele, who passed away on September 10, 2005, was also remembered in an ecumenical service held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh on February 23rd. 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote the following about Sister Michele O’Leary in an obituary on September 11, 2005.  She was the child of an Irish immigrant, and joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1951.  After joining the Sisters she was a teacher for 30 years and worked as a grade school principal, health care administrator, and directed an anti-drug program.

In 1989 Sister Michele co-founded the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh.  As the organization’s president she was able to implement programs that helped improve the lives of thousands of young Irish people.  Her goal was to lessen tensions between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, but her work went far beyond this.  

The Wider Horizons Program and the Walsh Visa Program brought young Irish adults to America to learn job skills and increase tolerance.  These programs provide young people from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to locate and secure better employment.  Upon returning to their home countries many participants have gone on to more prosperous opportunities.

Other programs sought to bring more business investment to Ireland.  She helped organize trade delegations to encourage businesses from Pittsburgh to expand into Ireland. 

Sr. Michele was a remarkable woman who tirelessly fought for peace and understanding between Protestants and Catholics.  She will forever be remembered for her good deeds and the lives she has touched. 


Please submit your feedback to:  Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh * Regional Enterprise Tower

                                                        * 425 Sixth Avenue, Suite 300 * Pittsburgh, PA 15219 or

Call/fax our offices:  Telephone:  (412) 394-3900  * Fax:  (412) 394-0502

To subscribe/unsubscribe or comment on this newsletter please send an email to:










return to top


The Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern is in the United States for a five-day visit in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  This visit will end on Friday when Ahern will participate in the tradition of presenting a bowl of shamrocks to President Bush.  The annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House offer many Irish politicians the opportunity to sit down with the US’s top officials.  Every party but the DUP, who declined their invitation, will be represented at the meeting.  The focus will be improving conditions for Irish immigrants in the US.  Ahern will also be making this issue the main topic of his meetings with President Bush on Thursday.  The PM will also be visiting San Jose, California and meeting with business leaders in Silicon Valley to help spread economic growth prospects for Ireland. 


The Northern talks lead by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, and Northern Secretary, Peter Hain, dissolved on Monday, February 20th after the DUP refused to sit at the same table with Sinn Fein.  As a solution Ahern and Hain proposed having two separate talks, one including each party but Sinn Fein, and another including each party but the DUP, but Sinn Fein rejected this idea.  A series of trilateral talks were then attempted by Ahern and Hain, but were halted when the DUP refused to meet with Ahern.  They stated that the issues being discussed only pertained to the North, and that Ahern did not have a right to be present.










return to top


Special Events:  St. Patrick's Day "Season"

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t only about the parade!  Don’t forget about these events…

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh's Annual St. Patrick's Day Open House

The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh will host its annual St. Patrick's Day Open House at our offices at 425 Sixth Avenue, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Friday, March 17th.  Please do stop in. 

St. Patrick's Day Mass at the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh

On March 17th the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh will host a St. Patrick's Day Mass with Father Sean Kealy at 7 p.m.  A social will follow.  For more information see

AOH Sean MacBride Division 32 have a Fish Fry from 3pm to 9m at The Ukes’s Club, 305 Mansfield Blvd., Carnegie.  Friday’s March 17, 24, 31 and April 1.

Gaelic Arts Society of Pittsburgh will host their Annual St. Patrick’s Day Banquet at the Rivers Club, One Oxford Centre, Downtown.  Reservations 412-761-1844.  Guest Speaker Judge Thomas Flaherty.  March 17th, 6:30pm.







Fifteen hundred years ago the man we have come to know as St. Patrick was kidnapped from his home in what is now Great Britain and sold into slavery.  This seeming tragedy ultimately triggered a chain of events that altered the course of history and changed the face of Christianity. 


Fifth century Irish marauders captured St. Patrick, who was born under the name Patricius.  He escaped after a few years of slavery, but eventually returned to spread his own message.  While living as a fugitive from his captors he had become convinced that it was his duty to spread the word of God.


As St. Patrick began to spread this message he also began to make a record of his teachings.  These records, Confession and Letter to Coroticius, are the only written documents from Britain during the fifth century, and are the earliest of any writings in Irish history.  


Although these writings are the only written documents from this era, his life is still shrouded in mystery and myth.  We do not know if he really chased snakes out of Ireland or used shamrocks to teach about the Trinity, nor do we know exactly when he was born, ordained, or met his death.  These facts, however, become unimportant when we think about how much St. Patrick has done for both history as well as Christianity. 


Join us in celebration as we honor St. Patrick for his contributions this March 17th.




opportunities available to host a young person from Ireland or northern Ireland this summer!

In the Spring and Summer of 2006, over forty young men and women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are expected to arrive in Pittsburgh to participate in our Wider Horizons program.  These young people will receive two months of on-the-job training, personal development, exposure to American culture, and new insights into the problems at home through conflict resolution.  At the end of the eight weeks, the participants will return to Ireland, hopeful of securing employment and living in peace.

As an essential part of this program, we are looking for host families to house participants during these two separate eight-week long programs.  Those of you who have hosted participants in the past have our thanks for opening your hearts and homes.  No doubt you may be called upon again, but we also ask you to recruit any interested friends, neighbors, and co-workers.  Host Family help is vital in providing a positive and rewarding experience for the participants.

For more information on becoming a Host Family, please contact the Ireland Institute at 412-394-3900. 






return to top

Irish Runner Wins Olympic Gold

                            By Miceal O'Neill

Derval O’Rourke


Ireland is not normally known for its sprinters, but this may have changed on March 10, 2006.  Derval O’Rourke bounced up and down in delight on the podium at the Olympiysky Stadium in Moscow before receiving her World Indoor gold medal.  The young athlete won the gold medal in the 60 meters hurdles, making her a new World Champion.  O’Rourke, who fought back tears as the Tri Colour was raised over her head, became a holder of one of the six indoor medals Ireland has received throughout Olympic history. 


O’Rourke began training only two weeks prior to the event, and will now go down in history as an Olympic gold medalist.  The athlete can now look forward to her career as a role model for thousands of Irish runners, following in the footsteps of other greats such as Sonia O’Sullivan.  O’Rourke can breathe a little easier now with her prize money of $40,000, which is three times as much as her government grant of Î12,000.  During training she relied mainly on financial support from her family.  The twenty-four year old from Cork, said: “It’s hard to believe I’m a World Champion.  I’ve been working towards it all season and I can’t believe it’s happened.”

The road to the final was a little bumpy as she came in second in her first heat, but then on the re-run of it she made it into the final.  During the final event she ran 7.84 seconds, finishing only two hundredths of a second faster than the second place runner, Spain’s Glory Alozie.  This lowered her personal best time by three hundredths of a second.  The Olympic medalist has since returned to Dublin, receiving a hero’s welcome. 


Miceal O'Neill is the 2005-2006 Rooney Fellow

















return to top


The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh presents John O’Donohue, Irish Poet, Scholar, and Author of ‘Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom”.  Chatham College’s Eddy theatre at 7pm, March 19th.  Refreshments to follow.  The evening is dedicated to Sr. Michele O’Leary, former President of The Ireland Institute.  Tickets $25 general admission.  Tickets can be purchased online at, or at the door.. For more information call 412-394-3900. 

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust presents CELTIC WOMAN in Concert at the Benedum Center, 8pm, March 21.  Tickets 412-456-6666.

Brendan Foley Memorial Concert takes place at Central Catholic High School newly renovated auditorium, McGonigle Theatre, March 25, 7:30PM.  Entertainment – Central Catholic chamber Singers, Hooley, Garret & Kieran Coleman, Guaranteed Irish with The Pittsburgh Irish Reelers and Guest Appearance by Mike Gallagher.  Information and Tickets, Arlene Miller 412-621-9339 or Email: Tickets available at St. Brendan’s Crossing @ Station Square, The Irish Design Center in Oakland, Acoustic Music Works in Squirrel Hill, Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle in The Strip.

Luka Bloom at the Club Café.  Though not as well known as his brother, Christy Moore, this Irish folk/rock singer and guitarist is well worth seeing.  Come check him out on April 11th at the Club Cafe.  Tickets are $20; go to or call 412-323-1919.

We're always looking for events to include: If you'd like to include your next event in this newsletter, please send event information including date, time, location, admission cost, and contact information to

become a regular at these local programs!

 Listen to Echoes of Erin, now in its 17th year, every Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. on WEDO, 810 AM.  Diane Byrnes has Irish music, news, and other great information






Paddy's Pour House located on Main Street in Carnegie, PA hosts live entertainment every Friday and Saturday night starting at 9:00 p.m.  Tuesday nights join Dennis Murphy with "Get Educated and Entertained as only 'Murph' can" from 8:00-12:00.  For more information, visit their website or call (412) 279-0770.


Catch the Thistle and Shamrock every Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m. on WYEP 91.3FM for Celtic music performances and discussions.



One of the support services offered by the Ireland Institute includes furniture donation, collection and redistribution to the Walsh Peace Visa participants. The money they save, as they set up house, is realized immediately, and they are quite grateful to all Ireland Institute supporters who have kindly donated furniture and household items.

New groups are arriving in the spring and summer of this year.  If you have any furniture or household items to donate, please contact the Institute at 412-394-3900. Our thanks and gratitude goes out to all involved.


Our Mission:

The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh’s mission is to promote mutual understanding of the Catholic and Protestant traditions in Northern Ireland and economic development throughout all of Ireland. The Institute fulfills its mission by providing quality programs in job training, economic development, leadership development, educational alliances and reconciliation. The Institute is a change-oriented organization that collaborates with industry, educational and government institutions in the development of all programs.