Read about how best to meet your match in Ireland during September!



The Common Ground

Vol. IV, Issue 8


      August 2006



                 News Updates






letter from the editor 




Six months ago I was asked to join a committee to develop programming around two major events in Ireland's History. The Year of Remembrance Committee was formed, seeking to enlighten the Greater Pittsburgh community on the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Hunger Strike of 1981.


As a Catholic of Irish descent it was not difficult for me to salute the brave men. My ancestors, long past on, were neither shy nor subtle recalling life as second-class citizens in their homeland. And many decent men and women from Northern Ireland's nationalist communities, whom I have known now for years, likewise have spoken out against the tactics of Britain in more recent times. I accepted that these men who died for a cause were blessed.


And learning what I have in fifteen years at the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh, I have come to understand that unionist communities suffered, too. When recession hit Britain in the mid 1980s thousands of undereducated working class unionists lost their jobs. The unemployment rate more than doubled from 1979 (7.9%) to 1986 (16.8%). That set the stage for rapid deprivation, decay, family disintegration, and tension in unionist areas. Hardworking men and women found themselves in the same circumstances as their nationalist neighbors. They were transformed quickly from "haves" to "have nots."


It is clear to me now that the conflict in Northern Ireland was based on economics and privilege. For centuries hard-working Ulster Protestants were promised a place of high regard in the United Kingdom. And second-class Catholics were kept in their place. But in a brief two-decade period, from 1967 to 1987, Northern Ireland society experienced the perfect storm. The civil rights movement of the 1960s that crossed the globe, empowering Catholics to rebel against discrimination, and the massive unemployment of the 1980s that affected the Protestant working class, resulted in Britain's failure to keep its promise.


Britain, Ireland, and the United States have, since that time, invested significant resources in improving conditions in Northern Ireland, which is now a much different place than it was 25 years ago. In spite of some political leaders' resistance, there is clear evidence that communities across Northern Ireland, unionists, nationalists, and new immigrants, are seeing the greater value in common ground. More children are attending integrated primary and secondary schools now than at any time in recent history. Programs in education and social development continue to reach out across communities while the strong economy, North and South, supplies the jobs and the standard of living that are just too good to give up.


Still, thorny issues concerning police services, equal opportunity, and North/South Cooperation are not yet resolved to eveyone's satisfaction. And getting the 108-member Assembly back to work at Stormont, regardless of Secretary Peter Hain's November 24 deadline, will be a challenge. But Northern Ireland political parties will pay attention to public demands for cooperation in a devolved government.


Each party's website has specific commentary on such progress. Sinn Féin's priorities include "engaging with unionism." The Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP) highlights the need for "joint working on promoting equality." Ulster Unionists insist they need a "locally elected and accountable Stormont providing the best opportunity for social, economic and political progress." Democractic Unionists point out that Northern Ireland "has benefited in many ways from those from other cultures and traditions. Whether it is people who have come to Northern Ireland recently, or have been here for many years, our economy and society have benefited from their presence."


The next few years will determine how this chapter of history is written. I have great hope that Northern Ireland will emerge from the current political stalemate as a dynamic diverse place. I look forward to honoring today's political leaders, from both sides of the Northern Ireland argument, who take that brave step towards a just peace, towards compromise and common ground. They will be remembered as heroes, peacemakers and they, too, will be blessed.


Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh


This month, we continue our series featuring Irish Festivals. 


In our Letter from the Editor, Jim Lamb comments on the improvements made in Northern Ireland and the need for continued advancement.  


There's also news about two of Ireland's literary greats and information on the All-Ireland Gaelic Games.


Festivals of Ireland


September 1st - October 1st, 2006

Matchmaking was one of the oldest traditions of Ireland when the country had two classes - the rich landowners and the poor peasants. The rich organized matchmaking so that their sons and daughters would meet and marry other people who were also well to do. The Spa Town of Lisdoonvarna, situated in the Burren Mountains was picked and traditionally the people from Ireland went there in their thousands to drink the healthy Spa waters and bathe in the three different mineral cure waters that the Spa wells had, and still offer. The month of September was picked as it is the month when the hay and crops are saved and the livestock do not need extra feeding until later in the autumn. 


The Matchmakers of old were the dealers who attended street fairs, as it was they who know the farmers who had eligible sons and daughters around the country. They invited the farmers from all over Ireland to attend the Festival the following September, and it was they who collected the generous dowries when the matches were made. Today there are just two matchmakers left in County Clare.


Immortalized in Christy Moore’s song forever, The Matchmaking Festival takes place every year during September and October in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland. 


The grand final of the Matchmaking Festival is always the 'Mr. Lisdoonvarna' and the 'Queen of the Burren' competition when the most eligible lady & gentleman of the Festival are picked and awarded the coveted titles.


Pittsburgh's own Harp and Fiddle Pub in the Strip District will host their Matchmaking Festival this Fall featuring singles activities, games, matchmaking and music. The Harp have had great success with their festival with many couples finding that special someone and even a marriage or two into the bargain. 




September 22nd - 24th, 2006

The 36th Ryder Cup will take place at the K Club in 2006. The K Club is situated just outside Dublin, Ireland. The choice of Ireland as the Ryder Cup Venue is reward for the country's investment in golf over the past decade.

The Ryder Cup epitomizes the greatest traditions of international sporting competition as one of the last great sporting events founded on prestige rather than prize money. Every two years the leading players from Europe and the United States entertain thousands of spectators on the course and thousands more on television across the world as they do battle for the Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup Matches involve various matchplay matches between players selected from two teams of 12. Currently, the matches consist of 8 foursomes matches, 8 fourball matches and 12 singles matches. The winner of each match scores a point for their team, with ½ a point each for any match that is tied after 18 holes.

Don't forget Pittsburgh's own Irish festival this summer:

September 8th - 10th, Station Square


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

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The International Monetary Fund expects the Irish economy to continue growing strongly over the next couple of years, predicting that gross national product (GNP) will expand by 6.2% this year.


But in its latest report on the economy, the IMF says growth has become 'increasingly unbalanced' in recent years, with heavy reliance on building investment, sharp increases in house prices and rapid credit growth.


It also says the expansion of the labor-intensive building and services sectors has led to a fall in productivity. The IMF adds that a stronger euro, along with faster wage growth compared with competitors, has affected competitiveness. It says exports' contribution to economic growth has fallen steadily since 2001.


The IMF says that while an easing of construction growth to a more sustainable size is likely to be smooth, what it calls 'an abrupt correction' cannot be ruled out.


With regards to the public finances, the report urges the Government to keep public spending growth to a rate slightly below economic growth, though it acknowledges that further increases were needed to improve public services.



Several thousand people gathered in Casement Park, Belfast yesterday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the hunger strikes, which resulted in the deaths of ten members of the IRA and the INLA in the Maze Prison. 


Many of the participants paraded in blankets throughout the Park, despite indications from GAA headquarters in Dublin that Casement Park should not be used because of the rule banning the use of GAA facilities for political purposes. 


The SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell noted that all the organizers and speakers were members of Sinn Féin although the organizers claimed that the rally was a non-political event.


The Galway Docks have seen several upgrades as the uses of the bay changed throughout the years. The channel was deepened and a new pier was added in 1937-39. In the early sixties, the discovery of zinc in Tynagh led to a deepening of the Commercial Dock, the surveying and dredging of the channel, the provision of cargo transit buildings, and a lot of road resurfacing. 


A new proposal for a €2 billion development of the docks area has been favorably received by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. The plan, prepared by a special steering group comprising the Galway Harbour Company, Galway City Council, Ireland-West Tourism, Galway Chamber of Commerce and the Marine Institute, proposes two phases of development; these include the relocation of the port area to deeper water to facilitate cruise ships, and a waterfront development with a cultural dimension. 


Dublin is the eighth most expensive city in the world in which to live, according to a survey published recently. London was calculated to be the most costly for goods, services and rent, followed by New York, with the Irish capital in eighth place in the survey of 71 major cities.


People were found to have the highest net wages in Zurich and Geneva, followed by Dublin and Los Angeles, when a standard basket of 122 goods and services were compared. The Consumers’ Association of Ireland said it was extraordinary that tourists continued to flock to Ireland in spite of the high prices.


The study found the winners in the international comparison of wages to be English-speaking Europe, with Dublin and London newcomers to the top 10.


The “Prices and Earnings” study carried out by global banking and financial group UBS looked at purchasing power worldwide. The study, which is published every three years, revealed that Dublin had risen to the eighth most expensive city since the survey was last carried out in 2003.



Fires destroyed or seriously damaged four retail stores at Damolly Retail Park early in the morning on the 9th. Residents were temporarily evacuated from their homes as 150 fire fighters, some from as far away as Belfast and Co. Fermanagh, rushed to the scene.


  On Friday, the Continuity IRA claimed it was responsible for planting incendiary devices in the stores. The organization also claimed that it had placed explosives on the rail track between Newry and Dundalk, closing the line for several days. Train passengers were bussed between the two towns.










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Irish novelist John Banville will be part of the jury at the landmark 60th Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF).

Banville's eighteenth novel, 'The Sea', won the Man Booker Prize in 2005.

Award winning actor John Hurt ('V for Vendetta', 'Shooting Dogs') was named chair of the international jury, which also includes Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig ('Wilbur (Wants to Kill Himself)', 'Italian For Beginners'), acclaimed Scottish director Michael Caton-Jones ('Shooting Dogs', 'Basic Instinct 2') and American rock legend Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.

The jury will pick the winner of the Michael Powell Award, which is given to the best new British feature film in the Festival. 


Irish poet Seamus Heaney has been nominated for the prestigious Forward Prize for Best Collection. The Nobel Prize winner was shortlisted for his latest publication, 'District and Circle'. 

The other nominees include Kate Bingham for her second book, 'Quicksand Beach'; Robin Robertson for 'Swithering'; Penelope Shuttle for 'Redgrove's Wife'; Paul Farley for 'Tramps in Flames' and Vicki Feaver for 'The Book of Blood'. 

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced in October.

The Forward shortlists for two other awards - Best First Collection (worth £5,000) and Best Single Poem (worth £1,000) - were also announced.


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

This Fall, over twenty 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.


Our second Wider Horizons group from Monaghan sand Armagh arrives on the 6th October .


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






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Hurling...Henry Shefflin guided Kilkenny to a 2-21 to 1-16 win and another All-Ireland SHC final appearance as his personal tally of 1-13 left Clare crestfallen at Croke Park last Sunday.. The Cats, as Kilkenny are called,  will meet champions Cork in the decider for the third time in four seasons on 3 September. Cork beat nearby rivals Waterford in a nail-biter 1:16 to 1:15 at Croke Park on the 6th August. 

Football...In what is sure to be an absolute thriller game 33-time champions Kerry take on 6-time champions Cork this Sunday in the Semi-Final of the All-Ireland Football Championship. Mayo play Laois after the two sides drew in last Sundays Quarter-Final. Dublin lie in wait for the winner of this game in the 2nd Semi-Final. The Final itself will be played in Croke Park on Sunday 17th September.

The All-Ireland Football & Hurling Finals are the pinnacle of the GAA season with the winning counties earning their people bragging rights over the rest of the country!

This Sunday the Pittsburgh Celtics, Pittsburgh's very own Gaelic Football men's team take on St. Jarlaths from Cleveland in the North American Gaa's MidWest Division Championship. The action starts at Founders Field in Indianola, PA at 2pm on Sunday. For more information log onto

















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IONA, Pan-Celtic music will perform at Grace Episcopal Church, Sycamore & Bertha Sts. In Mt. Washington at 7:30 pm. Information 412.521.2460 Saturday, August 19th

The Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC) will sponsor a Mass in honor of the Hunger Strikes at St. Mary’s at the Point, Stanwix Street, Downtown Pittsburgh, 10am. Information Jim Caldwell 412.580.3759 or 412.653.1782                             Sunday, August 20th

‘Race Night’ presented by Pittsburgh Celtics & Pittsburgh Banshees  at the Ukrainian American Citizens Club, 304 Mansfield Blvd. Carnegie. Admission $10. Doors open 7:00 pm Information: Annie Flaherty 412.243.4034 or Rob Tierney 412.478.2799. Free Admission if you purchased a horse.                                                           Saturday, August 26th

Pittsburgh’s Irish Festival at Station Square Amphitheater.  Gates open Friday 4:00 pm. Free admission until 6:00 pm. Performing – Tommy Makem, Gaelic Storm – NEW this year – The Elders, Homeland, Millish, Pipeline, Makem and Spain Brothers, Cahal Dunne, Dennis Doyle, local groups, Pittsburgh Emerald Society Pipe Band, Story Teller Alan Irvine, local Irish Dance Schools and two time World Irish Dance Champion, Garrett Coleman. Gaelic Mass Sunday at 10:00 am. Information 412.422.1113 or            Friday, September 8th - Sunday, September 10th 

Pittsburgh Ceili Club annual Club Picnic at Rose Barn in North Park, 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm. FREE to PCC Members, $5.00 for Guests. Music by Carnival of Souls. Information Maureen Strotmeyer 412.487.3031.                                           Saturday, September 23rd


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.


Irish Night at St. Catherine’s Church Hall, Hampton Twp. 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Featuring Irish Hymns by the Celtic Swedes, Traditional Irish Music with Hooley, Irish Dancing with The Bell School of Irish Dance and Irish Pub & Rock Songs with Cue Ball. Information:412.486.6001      Saturday, September 23rd


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. 

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.