Read about Ahern's plans to resign!


The Common Ground

Vol. VI, Issue 4


      April 2008





In 2008, the Common Ground will feature you! Your stories, past and present, will be our feature column this year. Tell us how your family came to the United States from Ireland, how you celebrate your Irish heritage, or how you enjoy Irish history and culture. Send your photos and stories to during the first week of each month.  Diverse cultural, political, and religious views are appreciated, but publication of any piece is subject to approval by the Ireland Institute Executive Management.







letter from the editor 


I returned from Ireland a few days ago, having led a business delegation from Pittsburgh to Dublin, Newry, and Belfast. My job was made easier thanks to the delegation's knowledge and interest in Ireland. All had traveled there at least once. Some had spent extended time there working and going to school. But none could get over the remarkable transformation of this small island, North and South, over the past ten years.

Nearly everyone we met had spent time in the US. Most had been to Pittsburgh at least once. Others insisted that Pittsburgh was high on their list of places to visit for business and pleasure.

The cultural diversity of Ireland today, thanks to the extraordinary migration of Eastern Europeans and other nationalities from around the globe has made Ireland, especially Dublin a cosmopolitan place. There are over 100 different languages being spoken on the island of Ireland today. What a difference from when the Institute first became involved in 1989. It sounded similar to the stories of Pittsburgh when big steel and its related industries attracted immigrants from all corners of the world a century ago.

Meanwhile, Ireland, like many other European countries are cautious about the future. Financial downturns in the United States have spread anxiety across global markets. Many young people in Ireland have huge mortgages. And as labor costs rise there, companies are moving and jobs are at risk. It's the same in most developed countries. But we all know that outsourcing to cheaper labor markets is a business practice that goes back centuries.

So what to do!

I think Ireland and Pittsburgh have a lot in common. Neither of us rely any longer on heavy manufacturing. Our economies are knowledge-based. In order for us to thrive we have to be smarter. We have to invest in education. We have to be ready for the next emerging technology. And we need to be quicker than our competitors to market. Just like the practice of outsourcing, this idea is centuries old.

Over the next several years, the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh will invest more time and energy in developing partnerships between Ireland and Pittsburgh. We offer each other excellent opportunities of mutual benefit. We complement each other in terms of export, marketing, education, research, and entrepreneurship. Yet another tried and true business idea: Finding the right partner.

Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh


Submitted by Brigid Beatty


          Here’s what I think. I think that every family has its own particular myth that shapes the fate of its members. Dorothy Day once told my parents that children are born with a loaf of bread under their arm.

It’s mid-August on a hot afternoon in 1968. I’m less than a week old when my parents drive me to our home on Milwaukee’s north side. My parents have an open door policy; our house is the city’s first homeless shelter where families find a space at the table and a safe place to sleep.

Almost exactly a month after I’m born, my father and some of his friends break into an office and steal government draft files. They call television crews and stage a public burning of the files, setting fire to them with homemade napalm. They are arrested and become widely known as the Milwaukee 14.

Even though Dad finishes out his jail term for his involvement in the anti-war protest, President Nixon decides to deport him since he’s from Ireland and not really American anyway. So we auction off all our stuff and say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa.

We live in Kerry for a while. Our house has no electricity so at night Mom reads to us by kerosene light. My brother Finnian is born that year. We celebrate with a fresh loaf of soda bread, its crust deeply scored with a cross. I still haven’t made much progress with my Irish, even though Dingle is part of the Gaeltacht.

Eventually, my parents decide to move to Dublin. For a while we stay at an old army barracks in the Wicklow Mountains, until my dad manages to find us a house to rent on the north side of Dublin.

Over the following years, Belcamp fills up with more and more Cullens. Patrick, Catherine, Kevin, Michael and Stephen are all born here. Later still, Ruthie will be born. Piles of bread line the kitchen counter. Friends and neighbors stop in for tea. People with Dublin accents, country accents, Northern Ireland, English, Scottish, Welsh accents come to visit. Dad does parish work, giving retreats in schools around the country. He organizes peace marches to end the violence between Catholics and Protestants while Mom stirs big pots of food at the stove. At all times our door stays unlocked. Hundreds of people come through our kitchen for different reasons. Some of them are looking for peace, some are looking for God. All of them find a meal.



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Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced that he will be stepping down on May 6th.  He has said that concerns about his finances, though he asserts that he’s done nothing wrong, are distracting from the process of government. 

He said his decision was "solely motivated by what is best for the people" and was "inspired by the desire to refocus the political agenda.  I've been privileged to serve my community, party and country for many years," an emotional Mr. Ahern told reporters in Government Buildings.

 He said he was proud of his work on the Northern Ireland peace process, on successive social partnership agreements, on delivering a modern economy and of Ireland's involvement in the European Union.  He also said he had "ended the myth that Fianna Fáil is incapable of sustaining a coalition government" and paid tribute to both Mr. Gormley and Mary Harney.


A Dáil tribunal is investigating claims that Mr. Ahern received money from property developer Owen O'Callaghan. Mr Ahern and Mr. O’Callaghan have repeatedly denied the claim by Tom Gilmartin. However the tribunal investigations have thrown up questions on lodgments to Mr. Ahern's personal accounts in the early 1990s.


The Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, has been elected as leader of Fianna Fáil and new Taoiseach.  One of his first tasks in office could be a cabinet reshuffle to fill the vacancy left by his own departure from the Department of Finance.  Following that, he faces into a tough period as leader with the Lisbon Treaty referendum, a slower economy and next year's local and European elections.


William Thompson, city comptroller for New York, has announced that the pension funds of police, firefighters, teachers, and government employees in the city will be invested in Northern Ireland.  This will be the biggest such public investment to date from the United States, totaling $150 million dollars.  The money will be committed to a private equity fund called the Emerald Investment Development Fund.   It will be put into infrastructure development in Northern Ireland and the fund could eventually total $750m.

First Minister Ian Paisley said it confirmed that Northern Ireland had turned a corner.  Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who joined him in Manhattan for the announcement, said friends of the peace process were showing their commitment. He also underlined the boost it gave in light of the upcoming international investment conference in Belfast next month.  William Thompson and a number of leading US business people are due to attend the conference.  Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has also welcomed the announcement and Mr. Thompson's commitment that the $150m investment would be used to promote sustainable development and equality of opportunity.


The President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, accompanied The Lord Mayor of Belfast on a walk through the city center as part of a four-day visit.  He believes that Burundi can learn from the lessons of Northern Ireland. 

 Burundi, in east Africa, is undergoing a peace building process following twelve years of civil war between the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority groups.  Mr. Nkurunziza said, "It is very good to see the conciliation in this country and I am pleased to be received here to share the experiences of our countries.  Burundi is also a post-conflict country and the visit has helped us because we have a program like yours."  The President also asked the Lord Mayor about the possibility of Burundian capital Bujumbura being twinned with Belfast.


Usually, the further you get from a heat source, the colder it gets.  For decades, scientists have puzzled over the conundrum of why the sun gets hotter as you move away from it - and now researchers in Belfast have made a discovery that could illuminate the dark side of the sun.  As a result, Queen's will be involved in a rocket flight in 2010 aimed at photographing the sun's atmosphere.

 Many scientists believe that waves travel from the surface of the sun and release their energy in the outer layers of the solar atmosphere - rather like ocean waves traveling across the sea before releasing their energy when they crash onto the shore.  The Astrophysics Research Centre team at Queen's was called in by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center after a rocket flight produced 145 spectral images of the outer atmosphere of the sun. The highly sensitive Extreme Ultraviolet Normal Incidence Spectrograph (EUNIS) was launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Traditionally, such images taken by satellites run at just one per minute, but EUNIS produced images at one per 2.5 seconds - at much lower cost.  

Queen's PhD student David Jess has been poring over the images as he probes the processes taking place within the sun's atmosphere and he has discovered a barrier 3,000km from the surface of the sun where the waves appear to 'break'.  The Queen's Solar Physics Group, led by Dr Mihalis Mathioudakis, has been at the forefront of rapid wave observations in the sun for many years.










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Dr Patrick Hillery, known as “Paddy,” died at 84 in Dublin following a short illness.  He was born in Co Clare in 1923.  He followed his father’s footsteps in becoming a local doctor, but was persuaded in 1951 to stand as running mate for the Fianna Fáil leader, Éamon de Valera.  Both men were elected, and the doctor was a TD for Clare for the following 20 years.


During this time he served as Minister for Education (1959-1965), Minister for Industry & Commerce (1965-1966), Minister for Labor (1966-1969) and Minister for External Affairs (1969-1973).  He was one of the key negotiators during the talks ahead of Ireland's accession to the then European Economic Community, commonly known as the Common Market, now the EU.  In 1973 he was appointed Ireland's first European Commissioner, serving until 1976 when he was appointed President following the unexpected resignation of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh.  He left office in 1990 having served the maximum two terms, widely applauded for his integrity, honesty and devotion to duty.



One of the last official acts of the departing Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and First Minister Ian Paisley may be to formally open the historic Battle of the Boyne site in Co Louth.

The Protestant King William III defeated the Catholic King James II at the location in 1690 - a hugely symbolic event celebrated every year in dozens of Orange Order parades across Northern Ireland.

A £19.7m restoration project, featuring a visitor center, is due to be opened at the site on the banks of the River Boyne in coming weeks.  Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said: "I think it would be fitting that the formal opening of the Boyne site should be conducted by the Taoiseach and the First Minister. With both men stepping down shortly, it would be an evocative landscape to bid farewell and close this chapter of their careers."

Last year the two leaders met at the Boyne site where Mr. Paisley presented the Taoiseach with an antique musket rifle used by one of King James's troops at the 1690 battle.  The pair also planted a walnut sapling together taken from an ancient fallen tree on the local Oldbridge estate.


Ten year old Cyra Taylor has danced her way across the UK, Ireland, and the US to take the top position in the All-Ireland Under-10 Girls Championships this year held in Killarney.  She is currently Ulster and All Scotland champion, and now has the world title in her sights. The World Championship, which will be held in Philadelphia next year, will crown a long list of achievements; Cyra has won every major title possible for her age group. 

Cyra, the youngest of three sisters, started dancing at the age of three when she joined the Derry-based McConomy School of Irish Dancing.  Cyra trains with her tutors at least three times a week, which increases to four or five times a week before each competition.


The leaders of the four major Christian churches in Ireland are to visit the Holy Land to show their support and accompany with their prayers the people who suffer there.  Cardinal Seán Brady asked for prayers for those caught up in 'terrible tension and terrible trouble'.  Recalling his visit there in January, Cardinal Brady said he hoped to go again in the near future and this time with the Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Alan Harper, the Presbyterian Moderator, Dr John Finlay and the Methodist President, the Rev Roy Cooper.

Preaching at Easter Vigil Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, the cardinal also asked for prayers for Iraq where ten days before, the Archbishop of Mosul was found dead after being abducted.   He also asked for prayers for many Irish missionaries in Kenya, saying he thinks of them and their worries and troubles.







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Plans for another exodus from Munster at the end of this month are well under way after the Heineken Cup organizers confirmed yesterday the province will receive an initial allocation of 13,500 tickets for the semi-final.  Such numbers should satisfy Munster fans as it represents more than a threefold increase on the number of tickets available to supporters for the quarter-final clash.  Tournament organizers ERC are fairly confident the semi-final clash at the 32,000-seater Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Sunday, April 27, will be a sellout.   “Munster are the one team in Europe guaranteed to bring a significant number of supporters to such matches,” said an ERC spokesman. He said it was possible further tickets could become available, depending on the take-up of tickets by supporters of Saracens.

The overwhelming majority of Munster tickets are likely to go to clubs, schools and supporters’ clubs.  However, tickets are likely to go on general sale through Saracens’ club from next week, which will give resourceful Munster fans another avenue for getting to the match.  Defending the decision to stage the match in Coventry despite criticism about the choice of location from some fans, the ERC said venues for the semi-finals were chosen once the quarter-final pairings were known.  “The decision to stage the semi-finals on two days was taken to maximize coverage for the competition and to ensure that each winning semi-finalist gets their time in the spotlight,” said the spokesman.  “The capacity of the Ricoh Arena is just about right. We hope it will be a sellout, but it’s not guaranteed.”

WIDER HORIZONS 2008 - Host FaMily Program

The 58th group of Wider Horizons participants arrived on March 26th and are looking forward to a good program.  Many thanks to their host families!

The goal of our program is to provide young people from the North of Ireland and border counties of the Republic with employment and personal development skills. Participants stay with Host Families while in Pittsburgh. Host Families provide the Institute’s Irish and British participants with an opportunity to learn about American family life. The participants welcome the opportunity to interact with families and children and become familiar with American customs and culture. Participating families have the unforgettable experience of learning first-hand about the new Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Hosts provide accommodation for participants, meals as per the family schedule and a nurturing environment for the young people, who are generally aged between 18-26. For their efforts families receive a weekly stipend for each participant they host.

If you are interested in becoming a Host Family, please contact Robert Tierney at or phone (412) 4394-3900.

















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Our Mission:


Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre – ‘King Lear’ Apr. 9-26. 'An Ideal Husband' May 8-31. 'Salome' June 12-28. 'The Playboy of the Western World' July 17-Aug 16. Performances at the Charity Randal Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial.  Info; PICT 412.561.6000. Tickets  or 412.394.3353.

Sunday, April 20th

Gaelic Arts Society of Pittsburgh presents Frederick Lapisardi speaking on William Butler Yeats at Synod Hall on North Craig St. in Oakland . Tommy Costello, Drama Student at Pitt will make a presentation, 2:30 PM.

Pittsburgh Celtics Gaelic Football Club first practice of season at Anderson Road Field at 1:00 PM.

Saturday, April 26th

AOH Division 1, South Hills presents “A Night of Irish Music” with Corned Beef & Curry and Mike Gallagher & Step Dancers at Castle Shannon Volunteer Fire Hall, 7:00 PM. Tickets: Tom Long, 412.561.4181 or Rich O’Malley, 412.401.3945.

Sunday, April 27th

The High Kings with Finbar Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey, & Darren Holden in Concert at Heinz Hall, 8:00 PM. WQED / PBS sponsors.

Thursday, May 8th

University of Pittsburgh, Osher Institute Program Summer Session 1 – 10:00 AM to 11:50 AM, Irish Country (Ceili) Dancing.  (2 hours / day, one day / week, for 5 weeks).  No class May 15.  Class Registration Required – Patricia at 412-624-7912 or Jack Webber at 412-758-5446.  Classes conducted by Liz Shovlin Grinko, TMRF, and Susan Kozak.

Sunday, May 18th

The Gaelic Arts Society of Pittsburgh presents and “Educational Mini-Concert” by The Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Harp Society, 2:30 PM, Synod Hall, North  Craig Street, Oakland.  Free-will donation accepted at door.  Information: 412.758.5446.

become a regular at these local programs!

 Listen to Echoes of Erin, now in its 20th year, every Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. on WEDO, 810 AM.  Diane Byrnes has Irish music, news, and other great information.  Congratulations on a great 20 years, Diane!


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.


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

Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club 2008 Schedule

Philadelphia - June 21

Pittsburgh - July 12
Columbus –July 26

Milwakee - August 16

Boston – August 31

Albany – September 13

Annapolis – October 4

For more information contact:

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.


 All articles are adapted from www., the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish Examiner, BBC, and other news sources.