The Common Ground

Vol. VII, Issue 12


December 2009



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Don’t let the title of this piece affect your expectation. This is not a movie review from Tolkien’s trilogy nor a reflection on lower Manhattan before 9/11. I write today of the two institutions that controlled nearly every aspect of Irish life over the past century—the Government and the Church. 

One of the stories dominating the news in Ireland today is the discovery of decades of unspeakable abuse of children carried out by clergy. A number of priests, nuns, and other “servants of Christ” were found to have terrified Ireland’s most vulnerable young people in schools and orphanages across Ireland. And their superiors, the bishops of Ireland’s 26 dioceses did little to stop it.

The Catholic Church was the moral authority of the Ireland. To farmers, laborers, and the impoverished Irish of the early 20th century, the local priest was more than just a spiritual guide. Priests established and executed policies on every aspect of Irish life. And the uneducated parishioners were conditioned over generations not to question the clergy. The Church’s absolute power led to absolute corruption.

In light of these discoveries, the Catholic Church in Ireland finds itself in a most embarrassing, unshielded position. It stands to lose millions of dollars as victims and their families bring legal proceedings against them. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Meanwhile, the Irish government, that other mysterious omnipotent institution of Irish life, finds itself broke. The policies that spurred economic growth in the 1990s have themselves run out of steam. The economy’s heavy reliance on the construction industry and the government’s apparent lack of oversight of the financial system have, along with other factors, contributed to a disaster. 

Developers, bankers, and a bunch of brown envelopes made it too easy to compromise the public trust. A few politicians took advantage of the law and a handful of rich men got richer. 

Parties in opposition to the Fianna Fail government rightly point the finger at its failed policies and missteps. Curiously, there has been little said about the opposition’s suggestions to fix the problems. My guess is that Fine Gael and its allies have none.

You will see articles in today’s Common Ground about problems within the Church and within the government. What is most discouraging here is that the two most powerful institutions of 20th century Ireland are, to this day, filled with exceptionally talented men and women. Unfortunately, it only took a few depraved souls to bring those institutions down. 

Of greater concern is what to do now. Leaders of the Catholic Church and the Government have to communicate directly with the Irish People. They must repent, seek forgiveness, and make reparations. They must clean up their institutions and terminate relationships that bring undue harm and terror to those they serve—the Irish people.

In 21st century Ireland, the people have some responsibilities here as well. This educated citizenry must not sit idly. It must engage with leadership. It must challenge the Church and the Government to serve as promised. It must vote. It must question. It must get involved. Neither the Church nor the government can be sustained without an active, educated citizenry. 

Jim Lamb

Jim Lamb




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Irish Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, insisted Ireland was 'turning the corner,' as he introduced the country's latest budget - which cuts €4bn from public spending.

Main Points of Budget 2010:
-Social welfare payments will be reduced by 4.1%

-Child benefit reduced by €16 ($23) per month (welfare-dependent families not affected) 

-Jobseekers' Allowance reduced to €100 ($150) a week for those aged 20 and 21 with no children, and to €150 ($225) for those aged between 22 and 24 and in cases where job offers have been refused

-No change to State pension

-Tiered pay cuts for public servants - 5% on the first €30,000 of salary, 7.5% reduction on the next €40,000 and 10% on the next €55,000 of salary

-Public servants' pensions to be linked to average salary across career, rather than final salary

-VAT (Value Added Tax) rate reduced - 21.5% rate dropped to 21%

-Excise duty on alcohol reduced - 12c cut on beer and cider, 14c cut on a measure of spirits, 60c cut on a bottle of wine

-No change to tobacco tax

-50c charge for every medical card prescription from April

-Carbon tax of €15 ($21) per ton - petrol to go up by 4.2c from midnight, and diesel up by 4.9c

-Hospital consultants will see their pay cut by up to 15% 

-People with a certain level of assets at home and abroad will have to pay €200,000 ($300,000) per year to maintain their Irish passport

-New 'universal social contribution', which will replace employee PRSI, the Health Levy and the Income Levy

-Taoiseach's salary to be reduced by 20%

-Mortgage interest relief - Extended to 2018 for those who now find themselves in negative equity

-Flood relief - More than €70m ($102) to be given to help victims and stop future floods

-Discounted rail vouchers to be given to senior citizen tourists to Ireland

-Scrappage scheme announced - Get around €1,500 ($2,250) off your Vehicle Registration Tax on a new low-emission car, if you trade in a car at least 10 years old

-The minimum pension age for new public servants will be increased from 65 to 66 - then linked to increases in the State pension age

Mr. Lenihan told the Dáil that the Government's plan was working, and that the first signs of recovery could be seen. 

As expected Mr Lenihan announced cuts in public sector pay and reductions in social welfare payments and child benefits. The Budget will not do anything to improve the mood in the public sector where there have already been protest marches and a strike. Those workers will now see wage cuts of between 5 and 8% up to €125,000 ($187,500). Higher paid public sector employees, Ministers and the Taoiseach will have deeper cuts. 

There will be changes to pensions too, but not for retired public servants. There will be tax on pension lump sums above €200,000 ($300,000) after next year. 

But it is not just the public sector that is feeling the pain, social welfare rates are being cut by 4.1% but the old age pension is not being hit. There are big cuts for the young unemployed. 20 and 21 year olds will receive €100 ($150) per week, those aged 22 to 24 will get €150 ($225). 

The capital spending like roads and rail is being reduced by €1bn to €6.4bn - but it is still relatively high by international standards. It has been curtailed for future years too.

Every household can expect to pay more in the form of carbon tax. Brian Lenihan says it will change our behavior - but it will also raise €250,000 ($375,000) for the Exchequer next year. 

The cut in excise on alcohol is seen as an attempt to curb cross-border shopping.

His 0.5% cut in the higher rate of VAT is also meant to be a boost to the retail sector.


Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called on First Minister Peter Robinson to publish his list of pre-conditions for devolving policing powers to Northern Ireland.

Amid a deepening rift between Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionists over the controversial move, the senior republican told the DUP leader he had to let people know exactly why he was still refusing to agree a date for the transfer of justice responsibilities from Westminster.

Sinn Fein has warned that any further delays will render the powersharing administration unsustainable - a claim that has been dismissed by the DUP as a bullying threat.

While both parties have agreed a £1 billion funding package with the British treasury, Mr Robinson is understood to have sent an eight page letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlining a number of other so-called 'confidence building' measures his party want to see implemented before devolution takes place.

Among them are commitments to retain police officers currently employed in a reserve unit that is being axed and changes to how contentious parades in the region are managed.

But the DUP has denied this amounts to a shopping list of preconditions, insisting that the only precondition is the attainment of confidence within the unionist community for the move.

Mr McGuinness told an audience of republicans in Derry that the letter needed to be made public. 'All of you are acutely aware of the difficulties we now face in relation to the transfer of Policing and Justice powers from London to here,' he said. 'Thirteen months ago Peter Robinson and I agreed a process which would see this happen and I quote 'without undue delay'. The issue of funding was flagged up by both of us as vital to resolve. That, amongst quite a number of other matters, has been agreed. Achieving community confidence was also an agreed part of the process. The people Sinn Fein represents have the confidence to support us in moving forward. The DUP keep harping on about community confidence. Fair enough, but I must make it crystal clear that the eight page letter which I believe is loaded with preconditions and sent by Peter Robinson to the British Prime Minister, was neither seen or agreed by me, his partner in government, as part of our agreed process paper. 'Therefore I believe that publication of this letter is both reasonable and essential. The entire community is entitled to know what is in that letter. I am now calling on Peter Robinson to make the public aware of its contents. '

Mr McGuinness' remarks came hours after Mr. Robinson rejected Sinn Fein claims that he and his party were not governing on the basis of equality.

'Simply because Sinn Fein has a demand and can't get other parties to agree with their demand isn't an example of inequality,' he told the BBC. It means that they haven't been able to pursue their political agenda or at least that aspect of it. There's no requirement on me to meet the demands of Sinn Fein and to fulfill their political agenda.'

Meanwhile, Alex Attwood of the nationalist SDLP said it would be unforgivable for the executive to fall over the issue of devolution.

'The current DUP/Sinn Fein exchanges are all about the blame game,' said the party's Policing Board representative. The current exchanges throw a spotlight on how political power in the hands of the DUP and Sinn Fein comes back in the faces of the community.'



The report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin has said it has no doubt that clerical child abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese and other church authorities.

The report accuses Gardaí of connivance with the Church in effectively stifling one complaint, and allowing the perpetrator to leave the country.

The three-volume report, covering a period of abuse from the period 1975 to 2004, was published 2 weeks ago by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.

The report details a litany of abuse perpetrated by priests against more than 300 victims. It says that Archbishop Desmond Connell's strategies in refusing to admit liability often added to the hurt and grief of many victims of abuse.

The Commission of Investigation cost a total of €3.6m ($5.4m) up to April of this year. 

The report rubbishes the view put forward by the church that the abuse was hidden from view and somehow took church authorities by surprise. It states that the vast majority of priests turned a blind eye to abuse although some did bring complaints to their superiors. In June and July of 2009, just as it was finalizing its work, the Commission became aware of additional information which it states may require further investigation and if necessary the preparation of a final report.

Last year, Cardinal Desmond Connell got an injunction against the commission preventing it from examining files. He withdrew the High Court attempt 11 days later, amid speculation that he may have been persuaded by fellow clergy in retirement to hand over his problems to his successor.

The report states that the Commission has no doubt that clerical child abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other church authorities. It states that the structures and rules of the church facilitated that cover-up. It also says that State authorities facilitated the cover up by allowing the church to be beyond the reach of the law. It claims that the welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor considered in the early days by State and church authorities.

The preservation of the good name, status and assets of church institutions was the first priority, according to the report, which states that priests were seen as the most important members of the institution. 

The Commission says that it has identified 320 people who complained of child sexual abuse during the period 1975-2004. It also states that since May 2004 130 complaints against priests operating in the Dublin Arch Diocese have been made.

The report details the cases of 46 priests guilty of abuse, as a representative sample of 102 priests within its remit. The report states that it was not until 1995 that the Archdiocese began to notify the civil authorities of complaints of clerical abuse. The Commission concludes that in light of this and other facts every bishop's primary loyalty was to the church itself.

All the Archbishops of the Diocese in the period covered by the Commission were aware of some complaints, according to the report. The move by the Archdiocese to take out insurance against potential compensation claims arising out of clerical abuse was according to the report an act of proving knowledge of child sexual abuse as a potential major cost to the Archdiocese. 

The report running to hundreds of pages details particular priests and the litany of abuse perpetrated by them. 

The HSE National Counselling Service has collaborated with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Church-funded Faoiseamh service, One-in-Four, Connect and the Samaritans to ensure that every caller affected by today's publication will be offered the service they feel is right for them.




Northern Ireland has emerged from recession, according to a new report by Northern Bank.

However the survey points out that, while Northern Ireland has technically moved out of recession, economic activity levels are still weak.

According to the report, one of the contributory factors to the North's economic recovery has been the phenomenon of cross border shopping (see story below). 

A favorable exchange rate and lower prices have seen a surge of shoppers head north from the Republic.

A survey by the Central Statistics Office estimated that around €435m had been spent by people from the Republic traveling north for shopping trips.

An economist for Northern Bank also cited monetary and fiscal intervention, improved consumer confidence and the seasonal impact on household demand for the North's move out of recession.

However, with growth next year expected to be a modest 1.2%, Northern Bank is cautioning against over optimism and warned of the risk of a slight dip in activity in the first three months of next year.

According to the bank, the public sector has been propping the North's economy up. For long-term recovery it concluded that a strong export-orientated private sector was crucial.








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Legendary folk singer Liam Clancy died on 4th December, aged 74. 

The actor, singer and musician was the last surviving member of The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, who were credited with bringing Irish traditional music to a world audience in the 1960s.

He died in hospital, surrounded by his wife Kim and two of his children, daughters Siobhan and Fiona.

Mr Clancy had been ill for some time and was admitted to Bon Secours Hospital in Cork in recent weeks.

Born in Carrick on Suir, Liam Clancy was the youngest of 11 children.

As a young man he dreamed of life on the stage, but there was music in his blood too.

In his late teens he met and traveled Ireland with US song collector Diane Hamilton Guggenheim and eventually traveled to the US with her.

Liam Clancy emigrated to America in the 1950s to join his brothers Tom and Paddy who were forging out an acting career in New York's theatre scene.

Along with Armagh-born Tommy Makem, the four began putting on concerts in the bohemian hothouse of Greenwich Village - initially to raise rent money for a small theatre.

'We had no intention at that stage of pursuing a singing career,' Clancy said later, 'but the singing became more and more part of our lives'.

With their trademark Aran jumpers - sent by Mrs Clancy to protect against the hard US winters - The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem began to play legendary venues such as the White Horse Tavern.

They became international stars following a performance on the Ed Sullivan television show. This performance led to international tours, including appearances at New York's Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The band played a key role in the 60s folk revival - reworking traditional ballads for both an international and an Irish audience.

Other emerging artists in the folk scene were drawn to the rowdy, rebellious, good-humored and emotional performances of songs they had learned back in Ireland.

When the Clancy Brothers later went their separate ways, Liam pursued a solo career in Canada before reuniting with Tommy Makem to form the hugely popular duo Makem and Clancy.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem did play together again in the 1980s, and in later years Liam - by now living in Co Waterford - maintained a successful solo career.

The man that Bob Dylan called 'the best ballad singer I've ever heard' is survived by his wife Kim and four children.


Consumers from the Republic of Ireland spent €435m ($630m) shopping in Northern Ireland from the end of June 2008 to the end of June this year.

Most people shopping in Northern Ireland, however, are from the border region.

Of those who made at least one shopping trip to Northern Ireland in the year up to July, 41% live near the border.

Those who live the farthest from the border made the least shopping trips to Northern Ireland (9% from the south-east, mid-west and south-west combined).

Householders said they spent an average of €286 ($418) on their most recent trip across the border.

Groceries were the most popular purchase (80% said they bought groceries on their most recent trip), with alcohol next (44%). Clothing and cosmetics were purchased by 42% and and 26% of households respectively.

Less than one in 10 households said they had shopped in Northern Ireland more frequently in the past year than they had in previous years.

This is the first CSO survey on cross-border shopping.

A section on cross-border shopping was included in the Quarterly National Household Survey for the second quarter of 2009.

The total household expenditure of €435m was calculated by combining information on frequency of trips to Northern Ireland and average expenditure on the most recent trip.

No adjustment was made for seasonality.






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With Ireland still depressed about the result of last month's  soccer fiasco in Paris - we thought we'd bring you some photos of our fundraiser at the Harp & Fiddle. The event was very well attended with Hooley and Guaranteed Irish providing the musical entertainment ably supported by Ray Werner (reading some Irish traditions and stories) and Marie Young (telling the story of Christmas through both English and Irish). We'd like to thank everyone that made it down to the Harp & Fiddle for your support and a special thanks to everyone that helped us make the evening a success.

Anne Mullaney (owner Harp & Fiddle), Jim Lamb (IIP President), Anne Mullin Burnham (IIP Board member), and James Burnham

Ray Werner (IIP Board Member) and his wife Susan

Joan Strueber (Strueber & Associates), Jim Lamb (IIP President), and Teresa Stayduhar (IIP Executive Vice President)



If you are interested in becoming a Host Family for the Wider Horizons Program in 2010, please contact Robert Tierney at or phone (412) 394-3900.





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December 3 – 20

Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, ‘Jane Eyre’ at the Charity Randall Theatre, 412.561.6000.  Tickets: ProArtsTickets at 412.394.3353, online

Saturday & Sunday, January 2 & 3

The Pittsburgh Winter Feis will take place at the Pittsburgh Airport Hyatt Regency Hotel from 9:00 AM. Local Irish Stepdancers will be competing in addition to schools throughout the region. There will be instrumental competitions, crafts and baking competitions, vendors and refreshments available for purchase. One vendor will be Brenna Briggs, Author of the Liffey River series. If you have any ‘Liffey River’ books, bring them and Brenna will sign them. Information: or Jim Graven 724.834.0233, Email:


Sunday, January 3


The LAOH Claddagh Degree Team is sponsoring a Steeler Party at the Grandview Social Club, 200 Fingal Street, Mt. Washington (Pgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins). Tickets $25.00 includes food soda & refreshments, Cash Bar. Tickets: Peggy Cooney 412.921.6348 or Maureen O’Toole 412.913.4184 or Email: Doors open at 12:30PM.

Friday, January 22

Ancient Order of Hibernians, Right to Life Bus Trip to Washington DC – Information contact Patrick Clark at 412.761.3897 or Denny Donnelly at 412.276.9312.

Saturday, January 23


The All Ireland Athletic Association presents from New York, Andy Cooney and his Band, at the “Frost on the Shamrock” Winter Social, East Pittsburgh VFW, Draper Street, 7:00pm, Tickets $25 ($20 in Advance), information 412.367.0696 or 


March 5, 2010

Cherish The Ladies in Concert at The Byham Theatre, Sixth Street, Downtown Pgh.  Details TBA.



become a regular at these local programs!

 The Echoes of Erin is marking its 21st year!  It airs every Sunday afternoon at 12:30-2:00p.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.  Tuesday nights, come for Irish Night: Guinness, Smithwick's, and Half and Half specials 8-12 p.m.  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 Dance Schools

            Bell School of Irish Dance

            Burke Irish Dancers

    Pittsburgh Irish Reelers

    Shovlin Academy of Dance

    Pittsburgh Ceili Club


Pittsburgh Irish Sports

Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club (PIRC)

    Pittsburgh Banshees

    Pittsburgh Celtics      




Check Performance Schedules, Etc.

Aran from Johnstown PA -    

George Balderose  -

Carnival of Souls -

Ceann  -

Cue Ball Music

Cahal Dunne  -

Tony Egan   -

Michael Gallagher  -

Terry Griffith 

Guaranteed Irish    -

Hiraeth  -

Hooley  -

John McCann  -

Corned Beef & Curry - http://

Michael Murphy & TSRB

Na Gaels  -

Jack Puskar  -

Red Hand Paddy  -

Rolling Scones  -



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 such as event tickets etc. that we can then distribute to our participants.

For further information or questions about how you can donate, please contact us at 412-394-3900.




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