Read our profile on Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann


The Common Ground

Vol. V, Issue 8


      August 2007



                 News Updates






letter from the editor 



The successful transition of Northern Ireland from a war zone to a civil society continues to impress me.  Not because of the community leaders' accommodations for cultural differences, but for their grasp of very practical problems those differences have wrought over time.

I've been cautiously optimistic, hailing the progress of the new Stormont government while waiting for something to tear down the peace process.  My concern has been that political clashes around issues of language, faith, sovereignty and other aspirations would prove to thorny for this current government. But so far the players involved have stuck to the agreement.

There is an air of confidence within and among the communities of Ireland, North and South, and their leaders, that a peaceful, prosperous, inclusive society awaits.  They are thoughtfully processing the terrible atrocities and financial burdens of a dark divided past, learning from the mistakes of their predecessors, and dealing admirably with many of the practical and financial problems that still lie ahead.

It seems clear now that direct rule from London did not work.  Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service said he would find it difficult to bear "with any sense of self respect" any relapse into a period of "that parody of democratic government, direct rule".  A parody! Bloomfield's latest book, "A Tragedy of Errors: The Government and Misgovernment of Northern Ireland" highlights the many mistakes made in previous Stormont governments and under direct rule.

And the cost of those mistakes?  A recent report suggests that the price for Sectarianism in Northern Ireland is close to 1.5 billion pounds Sterling, or nearly three billion US Dollars per year.  That's Three Billion...with a "B"...per year!  This is the cost for extra policing, estimated losses in jobs, tourism, and economic development, high-risk investment projects (remember the De Lorean?), inefficiencies in serving two segregated communities in areas such as housing and education, blighted neighborhoods at sectarian interfaces, and enhancements for interventions in cross-community relations.

As Ireland moves to understand the very practical problems associated with division, the more likely it's inhabitants will be to forge inclusive all-island strategies moving forward.  And as generations mature and mellow, the vestiges of their collective divisive pasts are hopefully replaced with common goals, give and take, and unity.  Whether that unity takes form under a common culture, church, language, or government, is inconsequential. As Sir Bloomfield said, "As I grow older, I care less which flag is flown and which anthem is played where I live."

The people of Ireland, North and South, have bigger challenges ahead with immigration, environment and energy concerns, education, housing, and social inclusion, all while trying to maintain a robust economy.  Agreed goals will only be met by a community and leadership willing to work together, no matter what their differences may be.

Unity of purpose and a practical approach will overcome.


Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh


This month, we continue our series about Pittsburgh's Irish Organization with a feature on Comhaltas Celotoiri Eireann.

 In our Letter from the Editor section, President Jim Lamb discusses past and present challenges of Irish society.




Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ) is the international, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of traditional Irish music, dance, song, and language. Founded in 1951 in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, CCÉ has grown to over 400 branches on four continents, forming a worldwide cultural movement.  Since its foundation, CCE as been integral in the organization of competitive festivals, Education programs, archiving of traditional music and song, and the fostering of traditional community.

CCE--Pittsburgh branch strives to expand the community of traditional musicians and music lovers in the  Pittsburgh area, through teaching, performing and sharing the music. Also working with Irish Dance organizations in Pittsburgh, CCE ensures that live music remains an inseparable part of Irish dance. CCE also sponsors traditional Irish musicians, both those with established reputations as well as lesser known artists. Concerts of world reknowned musicians such as Karan Casey, John Carty, Michael Cooney, Paddy Keenan, The Kane Sisters, and many others demonstrate how CCE -- Pittsburgh is committed to keeping alive a tradition that continues on no matter what present fad of the moment is being promoted, playing a large part in making a tradition that was on the verge of dying into the vibrant and growing tradition that it is today.

Many members of CCE--Pittsburgh can be seen and heard playing some of the best of Irish music in Pittsburgh. Classes are taught through the Calliope School of Music in Traditional Irish Music Repertoire, Irish Fiddle, Accompaniment. CCE--Pittsburgh also welcomes players, singers, dancers, and listeners of all levels to traditional music sessions at the Irish Center of Pittsburgh on the first and third Thursdays of each month, 8-10pm.

For more information, visit

Upcoming concert:

CCE--Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh, presents "Echoes of Erin," the North American tour of all that is best in Irish traditional music, song, and dance. Top class performers from Ireland, including many Irish Fleadh champions, display the highest standards and regional styles. This rare evening of entertainment will also include a Waterford Crystal and 50/50 raffle. Thursday, October 18th at Cefalo's in Carnegie, 7:30pm. $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For tickets and information, visit or



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 * 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 Irish firm Oriel Windfarm is entering an advanced stage of planning for a major offshore wind farm that will be able to produce 5% of Ireland's electricity.  The farm, which will be located in the Irish Sea between Dundalk and Drogheda, will be able to generate up to 330 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 250,000 homes.

A decision to allow construction is due in autumn, after several years’ preparatory work and a public consulation process.  Oriel is finalizing its applications with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

MD Brian Britton said that offshore wind is increasingly recognised as the key resource in delivering high capacity electricity generation from clean energy and Ireland's offshore wind resources are totally underdeveloped.

'Power generation contributes around 24% of greenhouse gas emissions nationally. The electricity produced by Oriel would displace electricity produced by conventional power stations and will reduce the need to construct additional fossil fuel burning power stations', he said.

He said that based on Sustainable Energy Ireland's projections, the wind farm could save over €14m each year in carbon credit expenditure by the Exchequer, and if UN recommendations are accepted this could rise to €36m.


Dr. Don Pollacco, from Queen’s University Belfast, has gone to the Canary Islands, but not on holiday.  The astronomer has won an award for 100 nights study and the Northern Hemisphere Observatory.  During the coming year he will use SuperWasp technique to detect extra solar planets.  The award is based on the success of the Queen’s SuperWasp experiment.

The SuperWasp technique uses special wide-field cameras to take pictures of large areas of the sky.  Then sophisticated software is used to detect the small disturbances caused when planets move across the face of the star they orbit.  So far, 20 planets have been discovered through this method. 

"The award will enable us to use the telescopes within an integrated programme allowing even the smallest telescopes to make important and valuable contributions," Dr. Pollacco said.  "While the study of exoplanets is still in its infancy, the UK has generally been seen to be lagging behind other countries. This award, however, firmly places the Queen's exoplanet group towards the forefront of this exciting area."

Dr. Pollacco will also use the time granted him by the award to work on 4 of his other interconnected projects, including the detection of massed exoplanets, the search for moons and rings around exoplanets, the search for exoplanets around small stars and the detection of brown dwarfs - objects that don't get hot enough to initiate nuclear reactions.


The opening of a new section of motorway on August 2 cut the travel time between Belfast and Dublin to 90 minutes, down from a full two hours.  The £86m section brings the journey to nearly half of what it was ten years ago, when motorists had to weave through towns such as Dundalk, Drogheda and Balbriggan.

Assembly Roads Minister Conor Murphy from the North and Forein Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern opened the new 14km section between Newry and Dundalk four months ahead of schedule.  Northern Ireland motorists are hoping for the end of the chronic traffic delays between Newry and Dundalk.

Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy said: "This project on the strategic road which links the cities of Belfast and Dublin on the eastern seaboard of the island of Ireland makes a substantial contribution to the social and economic well-being of our communities, both the north and the south."

He said: "It's great news for trade between the two countries and will greatly reduce travelling time. This is the sort of cross- border co-operation we need between the two countries.

Several other sections enhancing the connection are slated for construction.


57 men from Donegal, Tyrone and Londonderry had made the journey across the Atlantic in the summer of 1832 to work on the railroads, but their time in the US was tragically short.  Just six weeks after arriving, all of them were dead.  Though a cholera epidemic was blamed, the actual mortality rate was not more than 65%, leading some to believe they were murdered.

At the time, a cholera epidemic was spreading towards the area known as Duffy's Cut, and one theory is that some of the men - none older than 25 - were murdered by local vigilantes afraid of them spreading the disease.  With much prejudice in Pennsylvania against the Irish and Catholics at the time, the men may have been seen as an expendable underclass.  The coverup by the railroad company ensured that the location of their graves remained a mystery.

Researchers from Immaculata University have been searching the area for three years, and have discovered some of the men’s possessions, such as shirt buttons and clay pipes.  While they know they can’t be far from the grave, they believe that using thermal imaging technology will help them find the men.  Once the bodies are found, they will play detective – looking for clues to whether the bodies were in a coma, indicating that they may have been buried alive, and looking for bullet holes, which would prove that some were murdered.










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A twelve year old piano prodigy from Londonderry bested her peers from all over the world at this year’s Vienna International Young Pianists Masterclasses Competition.  Maedbh McGinley won top awards in three categories: original composition, contemporary improvisation of jazz, and set piece, over competitors as old as 18 from Japan, Iran, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey and Greece. 

The Hofberg Museum in Vienna was closed to give her the honor of performing on the original pianos used by Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss.  The judges were blown away by her performances, calling her a “little Beethoven.”  Her mother Bronagh, who accompanied her along with her father Edward and her little sister Orlaith, said the judges couldn’t believe how “versatile and gifted” she was.  She performed three concerts during the event.

Maedbh is a student at Thornhill College in Derry.


The Republic is setting up a taskforce to address the challenges of integrating Ireland's new immigrant communities.  The body, which will report back by the end of next year, will consult widely with citizens and with representatives of the thousands of non-nationals who now live in Ireland.

The initiative was announced by the country's first-ever Minister for Immigration Conor Lenihan. "What we need to do with a taskforce of this kind is to set out clear parameters - within which integration is actually going to work and happen," he said.  “A lot of issues arise there to do with the English language tuition and training, and the basis on which people come here and how they participate in Irish life."


Families and young flocked to a special community health fair and sports day on August 8th at the Whiterock Community and Leisure Centre in west Belfast. The event, which was organized by local community groups including the Top of the Rock Healthy Living Centre and Cumann Spoírt an Phobail, included free eye tests, reflexology and kids' activities from 10am to 5pm.

The idea for the family sports day was developed after a group of local fathers decided to take action to tackle rising levels of drug and alcohol misuse in the area, as well as to draw positive attention to the area. 

"We realised that the Ballymurphy area was hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons and this was causing tension within the community, particularly among young people," said Jim Donnelly, a founder member of Cumann Spoírt an Phobail.  "We've achieved a lot so far and the event today is about getting the community together and giving families an opportunity to take part in sports in a safe environment. Even if one young person decides to get involved in sports as a result of this day then we have achieved something."

Jim Morgan, manager of the Top of the Rock Healthy Living Centre, which was set up in 2003 with a grant of £776,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, said: "I can't underestimate the importance of community events like this. Last year's event attracted more than 700 people and the feedback we received was excellent. Indeed, a number of people were encouraged to visit their GPs with health concerns as a result of attending the event, which is what it is all about.”


An Bord Pleanála has given the go for archaological excavations on the National Monmument at Lismullen in Co Meath. The decision will allow archaeologists to examine the site and record their findings before building the controversial M3 motorway as planned.  Critics of the building plan had hoped for a new environmental impact assessment of the area.  They worry about potential damage to the nearby Hill of Tara.  The National Monument at Lismullen consists of two circular enclosures, the largest 80m in diameter, and dates from somewhere between 1000 BC and 400 AD.



This August 25th, fifteen young men and women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will arrive in Pittsburgh to participate in last Wider Horizons program of the summer.  The group from Monaghan & Armagh will  receive on-the-job training, personal development, exposure to American culture, and new insights into the problems at home through conflict resolution.  After their program the participants return to Ireland, hopeful of securing employment and living in peace. 

The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh would like to thank all of the host families who have worked with us this summer to create a safe and supportive living situation for the participants.  Our host families have been key to the success of these programs.

We are looking forward to new Wider Horizons groups next spring.  We rely on our dedicated base of host families, as well as families new to the program, to help us provide quality programs for the young people.  We are always looking to build up our pool of host families, so please encourage interested relatives or friends to contact us.

If you are interested in becoming a Host Family, please contact us at (412) 394.3900.






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Ireland took a huge step towards retaining their place in Europe's hockey elite today with a 3-0 defeat of Italy in the last of their Pool A fixtures at the Eurohockey Nations Championships women's tournament in Manchester.

The result means they finish third in their group, but crucially they carry forward the three points earned in the Italy clash to the next phase which will determine places 5-8 in the competition.

Ireland took the lead in Tuesday's encounter after 11 minutes when Eimear Cregan burst into the circle before lifting a pass to the onrushing Cathy McKean to volley home from close range.

Ireland play Ukraine in the first of their Pool C fixtures on Thursday and their final match against Azerbaijan on Saturday.

















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Our Mission:


Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre ‘Private Lives’, Aug 16 – Sep 9; ‘Pride & Prejudice’ Dec. 6-22.  Performances at the Charity Randal Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial.  Info; PICT 412.561.6000. Tickets  or 412.394.3353.

Friday 7th - Sunday 9th, September

NEW VENUE Pittsburgh Irish Festival at Amphitheatre at Sandcastle, 1000 Sandcastle Drive, West Homestead PA. 412.422.1113; between the waterpark and Costco, near the Waterfront.  Entertainment: Gaelic Storm, Makem & Spain Brothers, The Screaming Orphans from Donegal, David Munnelley Band, Makem & Spain Brothers, Glengarry Bhoys, The Celtic Tenors with Matthew Gilesnan, Darryl Simpson and James Nelson, Cahal Dunne, Dance Schools, Bagpipers, Story Tellers, Gaelic Sports – Hurling, Football, Curragh Racing, and more. 

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.


AOH Division 32 Carnegie will hold Fish Fry's at the Ukrainian Club in Carnegie on the following Fridays:

Friday February 23rd - Friday March 30th

Times are 3:30-7pm. For more information click on link above.


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

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.