Read about new developments in Armagh and Ulster!


The Common Ground

Vol. VI, Issue 12


     December 2008





(Cathedral in Armagh)

Armagh is part of the County Armagh in Northern Ireland, and it is considered to be the least populated city in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  It is the site of ancient religious worship in Celtic paganism and Christianity.   The fortress of Emain Mhacha, at the site known as Navan Fort, served as the center of a kingdom of Ulster

Armagh was once the capital of Ulster, and was considered a "spiritual capital" for approximately 1500 years.  St. Patrick established his main church in Armagh because he though it was a good place to begin the spread of Christianity.  St. Patrick established another church in Armagh, both on hills, and they both are now known as "The Church of Ireland" and "The Roman Catholic Cathedral." 







letter from the editor 


In 1989 the Ireland Institute was founded to address the conflict in Northern Ireland and to facilitate economic development on the island of Ireland. At that time, sectarian violence and hostility defined the North, and the entire island languished in recession. The Institute sought to bring young people, Catholic and Protestant, North and South, to Pittsburgh. Here, they would learn job skills and life skills necessary for success back home. 

With assistance from the International Fund for Ireland, the US State Department, various other US and Ireland-based organizations, and local donors, the Institute served over 1500 young people from Ireland and facilitated professional itineraries for scores of US and Irish visitors.

And in those twenty years, Ireland has been transformed. The Good Friday Agreement, now in affect for ten years, has brought nationalist and unionist politicians together in a way that seemed impossible when we began in 1989. And the Celtic Tiger that powered the Irish economy from 1995 to 2005 created wealth for millions of Ireland's citizens.

The US-Ireland relationship has changed dramatically. Ireland now represents a great market to the US Tourism industry. Irish investors over the past five years have put significant money into US property and businesses. More US students are studying in Ireland. Irish migrants to the US have, over the past five years, been moving back to Ireland. We are partners.

The Ireland Institute continues to address the issues important in the Ireland-US relationship. There remains, in Northern Ireland, a significant population of people with barriers to employment. The government has asked our assistance in addressing this problem. Social problems in Limerick, Strabane, and other parts of Ireland are foremost on our agenda.

Also, the success of our model for reconciliation and regeneration has the attention of US and foreign organizations looking to confront sectarian, racial, and social conflict. And finally, the important cultural connections to Ireland need to be revitalized. As we enter our twentieth year, we intend to promote the many cultural aspects of Ireland in Pittsburgh. Programs in student exchange, and Irish language will take shape this coming year. In future years, programs promoting the arts, history, genealogy and tourism will be part of the Institute's portfolio.

Plenty to be done in the next 20 years. I hope you will join us.

Merry Christmas!!

Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh








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Social Democratic and Labor Party Councilor Mark H Durkan. is welcoming a new campaign to make Irish one of the official languages of the North.

The move was launched at Stormont when Dominic Bradley, SDLP Member of Legislative Assembly Newry and Armagh Assembly member, suggested a private members’ bill to formally recognize English and Irish .


“The SDLP have been working on this bill for several months, in response to the statement by former DCAL Minister Edwin Poots, that his department would not bring forward an Irish language bill to meet the commitment made at St Andrews.  The SDLP will now be seeking support from other parties in the Assembly with a view to putting it before MLAs in the New Year,” he said.


Colr. Durkan also said an Irish Language Act would “depoliticize” the language debate.


This bill establishes two official languages, Irish and English, so it is very clearly a threat to no one. It is designed to meet the needs of nearly 170,000 people who know or use Irish.   





Minister for  Justice Dermot Ahern headed a Fianna Fáil delegation to Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, the week of December 14,  for the establishment of the party's first non-university unit, known as a "forum" rather than "cumann" or branch, in Northern Ireland. 

The Minister said, "It clearly shows that there is a middle ground of support in the North from people who are not necessarily supporters of the mainstream political parties."


There were 35 people in attendance at the "forum", which he said was "not strictly a cumann" although the group would be invited to send delegates and to speak at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis in February 2009.


The meeting at the Cross Square Hotel was also addressed by former ceann comhairle of the Dáil and current TD for Cavan-Monaghan Dr Rory O'Hanlon, who said, "The establishment of the Fianna Fáil forum in Crossmaglen is an historic occasion for the party and for South Armagh."


The group elected an officer-panel chaired by Martin McAllister of Crossmaglen. James Kernan, also from the town, is Vice-Chairman.


Dr O'Hanlon said," The question of contesting elections has not arisen at this stage and this will be a matter for the national executive to consider at a later stage."


The decision comes after a year of negotiations between party representatives and people from the locality.  





The University of Ulster is planning to move the majority of its Jordanstown courses to its Belfast campus. The university will formally announce details of major “strategic development plans” involving the Belfast and Newtownabbey campuses in the New Year. 


Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim, Ken Robinson, said today he was “extremely concerned” about the potential loss to the local economy if the move to Belfast goes ahead.


Among the departments likely to move to Belfast ,which recently benefited from a £30m refurbishment and redevelopment program, are Business and Management and Rehabilitation Sciences (including physiotherapy and occupational therapy).


Jordanstown is the largest of the four University of Ulster sites – with 13,200 students and 1,700 staff. This compares with 1,200 students and 300 staff based at the Belfast campus in the Cathedral Quarter.  It will remain as one of the major campuses, and it is likely to concentrate on sports and engineering.


A university spokesman said: "We can confirm that the University of Ulster is in advanced discussions about strategic development plans which will have positive impacts for all four of our campuses. However, we are unable to comment further at this stage until progress is made on a number of issues." 



Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has said that a referendum on a united Ireland could be held before 2016.  The briefing, “An Ireland of Equals: Peace, Process, and Beyond,” was held in the House of Commons


The fading international spotlight on Northern Ireland, and the current economic climate could create the right environment to go to a vote.


“We were accused of setting 2016 as the date for the hundred-year anniversary. It may take longer,” he said, but he thinks it is possible that it could happen sooner, if they keep working on it like they have been.  He is hoping that, once the attention on the country begins to diminish, that the “small island” will realize that they have a lot going for them.  Murphy said, “we will ultimately have to take charge of ourselves in the end.”  


At the wide-ranging briefing he said one of the major policing issues for the party was the continued operation of a “force within a force” in small sections of the PSNI, adding that some departments were under-performing and struggling to cope with the switch to community policing.


The meeting was held as part of Sinn Fein’s attempt to strengthen its network of support outside Northern Ireland.










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Work on a £100 million signature project to commemorate the Titanic is set to get under way next month.  Plans have been approved for the development of a five-story tourist attraction on the shipyard, where the famous liner was built almost 100 years ago. The council has pledged £10 million toward the project, with the Northern Ireland Executive, Belfast Harbor Commissioners, and a private developer providing the rest of the funding.


The plan is for the center to open before the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking in April 2012. Engineers will go on site in the coming weeks to begin preparatory work.


The project is expected to create 600 construction jobs, and the finished center will require 250 permanent staff.


The Titanic Signature Project is expected to attract up to 400,000 visitors to Belfast, who will spend an estimated £30 million each year, boosting our local economy.


The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has claimed that the new center will rival Paris's Eiffel Tower and Sydney's Grand Opera House, when it comes to internationally recognized iconic structures.


One of the main attractions inside will be a 65-seater "four dimensional" flying theatre that will take passengers on a virtual dive down to the liner's final resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic.   The center will be split into two galleries, each depicting the story of the Titanic.  There will also be a memorial for the 1,500 people that died when the Titanic went down.


Health unions have sought an urgent meeting with the Government to discuss cuts of over €900m by the Health Service Executive.  The HSE said it may have to seek an extra €400m in cuts next year on top of the €530m outlined in its service plan for 2009.  However, unions wish to propose an alternate plan to the Government, and this plan might help generate revenue. 


This alternative plan includes proposals for public hospitals to charge the full economic cost of treating private patients, and that would create, roughly, over €100m.  The plan calls for National Treatment Purchase Fund money to be used to keep hospital services going, that would otherwise be reduced to avoid public beds, closures, and fewer operations.  Also, it proposes that the Government commit to funding the cost of “demand led schemes.”


This would ensure that when overruns occur in the medical card and drug schemes, the HSE would not seek further cuts in overall health services to cover the cost.


The HSE has promised to do everything it can to protect services but said economic downturns mean extra costs with more people needing medical cards and seeking hospital and mental health care.


The Government published a “proposed legislation” to end automatic entitlement to a medical card for those over 70.  Under the 2008 Health Bill, all future applicants, 70 or older, would apply for a new test. 


A single person with a gross weekly income of €700 a week, and a couple with a gross weekly income of €1,400, would retain their cards.


Under the new law, the HSE would issue letters to around 140,000 card holders who secured their card under the automatic entitlement.


The executive said that all those over 70 years of age would have until March 2, 2009 to “self-declare” themselves, if they are over the new income bracket.  This change is supposed to allow them extra time.  People who exceed the income limit would not have to return their medical cards, but the cards would become invalid.  The Bill is expected to be debated in the Dáil and in the Seanad.


Department of Health officials believe that around 20,000 people would no longer be eligible under the new law.


Labor Party health spokesperson Jan O'Sullivan said her party will “oppose the Bill at every stage” because she said, “there is no legal obligation on the Health Minister to revise the eligibility levels in line with inflation.”


A new reduced flat fee of €308 a year would be paid to GPs for treating people with medical cards who are over 70. The reduced fee comes into effect on 1 January.


Aer Lingus has announced that it is resuming its Shannon Heathrow service starting on March 29, 2009.  At a news conference in Dublin, the airline said it would operate double daily flights to and from Shannon and Heathrow.


The Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, has welcomed the decision, and he said, 'I am particularly pleased that Aer Lingus has finally decided to recommence this important service from Shannon airport to London Heathrow because it is strategically important.


The decision comes two working days after Aer Lingus appeared at the Oireachtas Transport Committee, where members of the board were strongly advised to reopen the airline's Shannon Heathrow route. The route was closed last January.



But launching the route today, Aer Lingus Chief Executive Dermot Mannion said that the route is being reopened because of new arrangements with unions on staff costs, and the Shannon Airport Authority on airport charges. He said he hoped the route would be profitable by the end of its first year.






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The awards just keep on coming for Padraig Harrington - who has now become the first European to be named the US PGA Tour's Golfer of the Year in a poll of players.


In the past week, the Open and US PGA champion was also selected as the European Tour Player of the Year, also for a second year running - winner of the Association of Golf Writers award.


Harrington accumulated more points than Tiger Woods, Kenny Perry, Camilo Villegas and Vijay Singh for the US Tour prize. The only other non-Americans to hold the Jack Nicolas Trophy, since it was introduced in 1990, were Nick Price, Greg Norman, and Singh.


Harrington said, “There is no greater accolade than to receive an award from your peers and to receive the Player of the Year award is phenomenal.”


















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December 3 – 20

Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre ( presents ‘Dublin Carol’ at the Henry Heymann Theatre, at the Stephen Foster Memorial on Univ. or Pgh. campus; directed by Jackie Maxwell.  Tickets: ProArts, 412.394.3353, online:



Wednesday, December 31 – New Year’s Eve

Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, 2329 Penn Ave., in The Strip, will rock in the New Year with Red Hand Paddy from 9:00PM.  Champaign Toast at 8:00PM and Midnight.



February 18, 25, March 4, 11, 15, 25

- "Names-Their Origin and Meaning"


The focus will be on name origins from America, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and Italy.  Community College of Allegheny County-Downtown Campus- 625 Stanwix Stree, 11th Floor.  5:30 PM- 7:30 PM.  Information and to register, call 412-391-1210


February 19, 26, March 5, 12, 19, 26

"Window to Ireland"


Community College of Allegheny County-Downtown Campus- 625 Stanwix Stree, 11th Floor.  5:30 PM- 7:30 PM.  Information and to register, call 412-391-1210


January 31 – February 2, 2009

 Irish Festival Cruise aboard Celebrity Cruise Line’s ‘Summit’ sailing the Southern Caribbean.  Entertainment with Cherish The Ladies, The Black Brothers, Johnny McEvoy, Tommy Sands, Liam Tiernan, The Matt Cunningham Band, Don Stiffe, Donny Golden, Dan Stacy, and Maura O’Connell.  1-800-441-HARP.  Online



become a regular at these local programs!

 The Echoes of Erin is marking its 21st year!  It airs every Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. on WEDO, 810 AM.  Diane Byrnes continues to provide Irish music, news, and other great information from the Emerald Isle.  Keep up the good work, 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.  Come for "Irish Nite" on Tuesdays for Guinness, Smitchwick's and Half & Half Specials 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


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.


The Ireland Institute relies on its donor and volunteer network to continue its mission of mutual reconciliation and economic development. Your generosity is kindly appreciated.

The Ireland Institute is available to accept donations through the United Way. Please remember our code for the United Way Campaign of Southwestern Pennsylvania: 4534. We are also listed as a non-Profit under the Combined Federal Campaign. Our number is: 12438. A third option is to donate through the local Federal campaign. This number is: 9016.

If you prefer, a tax-deductible donation can also be made directly to the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh. The Ireland Institute also appreciates in-kind donations of furniture, house wares, event tickets etc. that we can then distribute to our participants.

For further information or questions about how you can donate, please complete the form below.




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