Join us October 25 for a reception welcoming the new Walsh Visa group! Details in the Events section...


The Common Ground

Vol. III, Issue X


October 2005


                  News Updates





upcoming Events:















in this issue


Welcome, readers!  This month, first and foremost we pause to remember our President, Sr. Michele O'Leary.  You will also find a remembrance of Michele in the Lifestyles section.


This month's featured County is Monaghan, which is located in the Republic of Ireland just south of the border with Northern Ireland.


The lifestyles section is chock full of information about local news and events, including the upcoming Samhain celebration, local Scottish dancing, and the arrival of our latest group of Walsh Visa participants.


Finally, check out our Sports section with an article from contributing writer Miceal O'Neill, this year's Rooney Fellow.



letter from the editor


We all experience landmark events in our lives.  Certain dates and years have real meaning to us as individuals, within families, among communities and nations.  Many are celebrated as annual holidays.  Others are remembered sorely as reminders of our imperfections.  But they all should encourage us to look at our world and hope that, together, we can improve it for future generations.


Events on these days changed our lives in profound ways: weddings, children's birthdays, JFK's assassination, the Immaculate Reception, the end of the cold war, and 9/11.


While the mix of events are still fresh, I expect to look back on September/October 2005 as a landmark time for Ireland and for the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh.  For it was during this time that the conflict that defined the Ireland Institute and the soul that created it both moved on to a better place.  Michele O'Leary transitioned from human life to eternal life, and within a week, the IRA disarmed, agreeing to pursue its objectives by political means.


After 35 years of warfare, enough was enough.  And the democratic process has been given a chance to work.  And for its part, the Ireland Institute this year recorded its 1500th alumnus.  Throughout its sixteen-year history under Michele's watchful eye, the Institute and the Greater Pittsburgh area provided an environment that facilitated learning, respect, mutual understanding, cultural diversity, job skills, and hope for a brighter future in Ireland.


Many who read this page have played, and will continue to play a part in that environment.  For the work Michele began is not finished.  Unrest continues in communities hardened by paramilitarism.  Those communities' leaders now have decision to make.  Pressure from the Irish and British governments and assistance from the international community  must continue to encourage those leaders to move forward.  Special attention is needed in the most disadvantaged areas.


While the Institute will continue to serve these areas through the Walsh Visa and Wider Horizons Programs, new ideas and opportunities to improve conditions in these areas are being developed.  Collaborative education and research programs between Pittsburgh and Belfast, entrepreneurship seminars with Ireland Northwestern border region, and ongoing business delegations, in both directions will redefine the Institute's activity, if not its mission, over the next few years.  The board of directors and staff look forward to these new challenges and opportunities.


On Monday I went to mass to recognize Michele O'Leary's "Month's Mind."  This in an Irish tradition within the church to remembers an important person in one's life who had passed away a month earlier.  Because immediate grief can cloud the mind, humans may treat the passing of loved ones as a horrible end.  The "month's mind" give us one month to grieve and then celebrate life, on earth and in eternity.


Coincidentally, Monday was a holiday, celebrating Christopher Columbus' discovery of America.  With a clear mind, and with a day off, I looked back on the intrepid life of Michele O'Leary and thought: "Isn't it appropriate that I would remember these two fearless adventurers on this day?" 


From now on, I will remember, not the day she passed and I grieved, but the day I celebrated her life.  October 10th will always be a landmark day for me. 


Jim Lamb is the Vice President of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh, and can be reached at

12 counties in 12 months:



County Monaghan is located in the Republic of Ireland.  It is part of the Ulster Province. The name Monaghan comes from Irish Muine Cheain meaning “land of the hills.”  County Tyrone, Armagh, and Fermanagh of Northern Ireland and Louth, Meath, and Cavan of the Republic of Ireland border County Monaghan.  Monaghan, which is the largest town, along with Carrickmacross, Castleblayney, and Clones are the major centers of trade, farming, and tourism in the county. 

The town of Monaghan is a thriving busy center with many activities such as horse-riding, pony-trekking, swimming and golf. It is a county of mixed farming and dairy pastureland. Visitors often return to the friendly, uncrowded area for both sport and pleasure.  Visitors are also attracted because the county retains many of the old traditions and Irish culture.

The movement of ice formed the hills and mountains which dot the landscape, during the last Ice Age.  The countryside is home of the Mullyash Mountains, Slieve Beagh, and Coolberrin Hill.  The three main rivers in County Monaghan are the Fane, Glyde, and Blackwater.  The two main lakes, Lough Egish and Lough Fea, are tourist attractions for hikers and cyclists. 

County Monaghan is home to the famous 20th century poet, Patrick Kavanagh.  Born in the parish  of Inniskeen to a farming family he attended school until the age of thirteen.  He went to work as an apprentice to the town’s shoemaker then later moved to London for a brief stint before settling in Dublin in 1939.  In 1936 his first work, Ploughman and Other Poems, was published followed by A Soul For Sale in 1947, and Come Dancing with Kitty Stobling in 1960.  One of his most famous poems was The Great Hunger, which was adapted for theatre and produced by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.  At the age of 67 he died from complications due to bronchitis after attending the opening performance of the Abbey's Theatre's adaptation of his work, Tarry Flynn.

For more information visit:



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Sr. Michele O’Leary, Sister of Mercy and co-founder of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh, passed away on September 10th. Michele had fought a courageous three-year battle with cancer.  She will be greatly missed by the staff and Board of Directors of the Ireland Institute.  Michele’s many achievements include an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster and an appointment to Pennsylvania’s Court of Judicial Discipline.  Most importantly, Michele was the catalyst for programs allowing thousands of young people in Ireland, north and south, to change their lives. Much more information is included in our Fall 2005 bi-annual newsletter.  This will arrive in the mailboxes and email boxes of our newsletter subscribers shortly.  If you do not receive our bi-annual newsletter and would like a copy of this special edition, please contact us at








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On September 25th it was reported that the IRA destroyed a vast arsenal of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, AK-47 rifles, flamethrowers, handguns, mortars, and rocket launchers.  It is believed that the majority of these weapons were acquired from Libya in the 1980’s.  Other loose ammunition was collected and destroyed.  Retired General John De Chastelain of Canada, Chairman of the  Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD),  Rev. Alex Reid, a catholic priest, and Rev. Harold Good,  former president of the Methodist Church of Ireland were hon hand to observe these proceedings.  These three men were the only witnesses, which has made many in Northern Ireland skeptical as to whether all the weapons were destroyed. 

The report came two months after the IRA's announcement that it had ended its armed campaign.  The announcement and the report were welcomed by the governments of Ireland, the UK, and the international community, as positive steps forward in the peace process.  Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern said that the disarmament has “real historical significance.” 

Other political and community leaders close to the conflict were skeptical of the report, seeking visual proof of the disarmament.  They believed that the verbal accounts from the two clergymen and General De Chastelain were not enough to prove that all weapons were destroyed.

Since 1969 nearly 3,600 lives have been lost to the conflict. 


The Orange Order, a Protestant fraternal organization, was not permitted to follow their normal parade route on Sunday, September 10 because it runs along the border to a Catholic neighborhood in west Belfast.  These events led to three days of rioting in Belfast, which the Police Service of Northern Ireland blamed on the Orange Order.  Police were attacked with grenades and machine guns.  Fifty police officers were wounded. 

During Monday afternoon rush hour men, women, and children formed a barrier blocking traffic.  Individuals posing as Belfast police called local businesses, ordering that all employees be sent home because of a security threat.  This caused larger traffic problems because more people were on the streets than usual.  1,200 British troops were deployed to assist local police in calming the riots.  Sixty-three arrests were made in connection to rioting.  This was the worst violence in Belfast in a decade. 

Two groups that have been accused of participating in the violence are the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defense Association (UDA).  In 1998 both groups agreed to a cease-fire that was broken numerous times.  The groups have been outlawed.  As of September 13th the British government ended their recognition of the UVF cease-fire.  Another group, the Red Hand Commando is also being closely watched by the British government. 












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The celebration of Halloween evolved from a Celtic holiday known as Samhain Samhain, literally translated from Celtic, means "summers end".  The holiday celebrated the end summer and the onset of winter.  Seasonal changes were not the only reason for this fire festival - the lives of people who had passed during the year were also celebrated.  The Celts believed that on the eve of the New Year the shield of Scathach, a female warrior princess, was lowered allowing the dead and the unborn to come to earth and visit family, friends, and foes.  The balance of the ordered world and chaos ceased to exist for one night.  This was a time for predictions of the future from Druid leaders about the upcoming winter. 

The free mixing of spirits lead to a tribe's increased fertility, to appease dead souls, to please the gods, and prepare the people for a long winter.  At the ancient celebrations tribes gathered at Tara, where an enormous fire was built out of harvested plants and dead animals' bodies.  Once burned it was believed that the animals’ souls were purified.  Out of this idea came the tradition of burning the dead in a ceremonial funeral fire.

Customs of Samhain influenced modern practices of Halloween.  Throughout the Samhain festival it was common for families to leave food, often times baked goods and sweets, out on the table for departed guests that may have come to visit.  This was the beginning of the ‘trick’ portion of ‘trick -or-treat’.  In the evenings children were seen walking in villages from house to house singing songs and asking for money.  They carried hollowed out turnips with lit candles inside to light the path.  There were for forerunners of modern-day jack-o-lanterns.

  pumpkins carved into jack-o'- lanterns.jpg

These traditions were handed down generation to generation relatively unchanged until the Church imposed various adjustments.  Samhain became Hallomas, the festival of the dead.  The next change was to All Hollow’s Day on November 1st followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2nd.  In modern times All Saint’s Day is celebrated on November 1st. These traditions were carried to America with the immigration of Irish, English, and Scottish. 

In honor of these traditions, Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle will be holding a Samhain Celebration on October 30th.  The event will benefit Diane Byrnes's radio program Echoes of Erin.  The event will include live music, a costume party, and food. 


Scottish dance is alive and well in Pittsburgh thanks to the Pittsburgh Scottish Country Dance Society, an affiliate of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. Both the local and parent organizations are
dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of Scottish Country Dance.

Scottish Country Dance is a direct fore-runner of American square dancing.  When the Celts came to North America, they brought their music and dance with them. Their music echoed through the Appalachian region, and Scottish country dance evolved into square dancing. As a result, some of the patterns and names are quite familiar to square dancers.  Country dance is, above all, a social dance form. The dances are performed in sets of 3 to 5 couples. Sets may be square, with partners together, or two parallel lines, with partners facing each other across the set.

As a social dance form, it is common to change partners from dance to dance. It is actually rather unusual for a couple to dance together through the course of an evening. It is an opportunity to meet and dance with many people. Getting to know each other and share dance experience is a wonderful opportunity for everyone.

The Pittsburgh group is quite active. During the "season", they dance twice weekly.  On Saturday evenings, they dance at Grace Episcopal Church on Mt. Washington,  and on Mondays at Southminster Presbyterian in Mt. Lebanon.  The evenings activities start with an instructional period at 7pm. This provides an opportunity for beginners to learn the basics and for more experienced dancers to practice and review basic skills.  Social dancing follows at 8pm.  The dance "season" runs from the beginning of October through mid-June. For 2005, the first sessions will be Saturday, October 1 at Grace Episcopal, and Monday, October 3, at Southminster Presbyterian.

The demonstration dances provide an opportunity for the group to show people Scottish Country Dance, talk about the dance form and its heritage, and of course, invite new dancers to join.  The demonstration team is available to any group or organization. Inquiries can be made through our web site, at,
via email to

The Pittsburgh Scottish Country Dance Society holds frequent special events.  These range from simple parties to the annual Highland Ball. The emphasis at these events is having a good time socializing with fellow dancers, and dancing like there is no tomorrow!

This piece was contributed by Bruce Golightly of the PSCDS.




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October 23rd marks the arrival of a new group of Walsh Peace Visa Program participants.  We are very excited to continue our participation in this program.

The Walsh Peace Visa Program, officially known as the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program, was created in 1998 from legislation sponsored by Congressman Jim Walsh of New York.  The program allows young people from disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland and the counties of the Republic of Ireland which border the North, to live and work in the United States for up to 24 months.

As in the past, the Ireland Institute is searching for housing, social, and employment opportunities for our participants, and will accept furniture donations to help them get settled in the area.

If you have any such opportunities or are interested in making a donations, contact us at


The Ireland Institute will hold its annual Christmas Concert on Friday, December 9th at Chatham College.  More details to come...











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Hurling is one of the oldest field games in the world. Also Hurling is one of the fastest and most skilful field games in the world. The stick or "Hurley" is generally made from a single plank of wood from the Ash tree; it is curved at the end to make a striking surface. The ball or “sliothar” is similar to a hockey ball but with raised ridges.

Watching Hurley for the first time can be confusing but the general rules are as follows: you may strike the ball on the ground, or in the air. You may pick up the ball with your Hurley and carry it for not more than four steps in the hand. After those steps you may bounce the ball on the Hurley and back to the hand, but you are forbidden to catch the ball more than twice. To get around this, one of the skills is running with the ball.  To score, you put the ball over the crossbar with the hurley or under the points. The game is played on the same pitch as Gaelic football with the same amount of players, fifteen on each team with 5 substitutes allowed on each side.


The Women's version of Hurling is called camogie and is played on the same general rules but the sliothar generally stays on the ground more during the game.

Like Gaelic football Hurling is a physical game with a lot of contact allowed between players. It differs from Gaelic football in that players can wear helmets, but these are not compulsory at the senior level.

By Miceal O'Neill (2005 Rooney Fellow/Duquesne University)



















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October 1st

Pittsburgh Feis.  Traditional Irish Dancers will perform at the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena, Harmarville, PA.  For more information contact Kathy Yates

October 25th

The Ireland Institute will host a reception to welcome a new group of Walsh Visa Participants. Venue to be determined. Please RSVP in advance to the Institute at 412-394-3900. 

October 26th - 27th

The Center for Irish Studies at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia will hold a 2 day Celtic genealogical workshop.  This event will hosted by the Ulster-Society.  For more information visit:

October 27th

Irish musical group Chulrua will perform at the Irish Centre at 8pm.  Members of the group, Paddy O'Brien, Patrick Ourceau, and Pat Egan (pictured below) perform traditional Irish music.  For more information visit:

Chulrua blur photo

October 30th

Samhain Celebration at the Harp & Fiddle including performances by Corned Beef & Curry, Terry Griffith, The Rivermen, The Cogan Brothers, and Lauthrey Connolly.  In addition to the live music a costume contest will also be held. 

For more information visit:

October 31st

Corned Beef & Curry will play live at Finnigan's Wake before the Steelers's game. 

November 4th 

The Wolfe Tones' Derek Warfield will perform at Finnigan's Wake. 

For more information on all events at Finnigan's Wake visit:


November 5th

10th annual Ladies AOH 32 Fashion Show and Luncheon, Nevillewood Country Club

For more information contact Judi Coyne at (412) 881-4348

November 11th

Michael Flatley’s “Celtic Tiger” at Mellon Arena
The master of dance returns for a show of song and dance that tell of the history of Ireland.  Michael Flatley proclaims:  "Celtic Tiger portrays the oppression of a people and the tiger symbolizes the awakening of their spirit and their struggle for freedom."
For more information visit: 

November 12th

The second Scottish-English dance night will be held.  All dances will be taught and the public will be invited.  Grace Episcopal Church 7:00PM

For more information visit:

become a regular at these local programs!

 Listen to Echoes of Erin, now its in 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 PM.  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.


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




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.

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.