The Common Ground

Vol. VIII, Issue 2


February 2010



Common Ground readers and other supporters of the Ireland Institute can now follow Jim on Twitter.

Log on to, and enter Jim's ID in the search tab.  His ID is Jim_Lamb.

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A month ago I wrote about the impending doom of Northern Ireland’s Stormont Government with the “Mrs. Robinson” crisis, the patience of Sinn Fein wearing thin, and the ultimate fear that Ireland might go back to war with itself if the parties could not sustain a working relationship.


And somehow, in spite of it all, it appears that they not only averted the slip, but emerged with significant progress toward sustained peace. A few more dissident organizations on both sides (the UDA and INLA) began decommissioning weapons. The joint leaders at Stormont, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, and their parties reached an agreement with the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland on the devolution of justice and policing. The Irish diaspora, especially Irish America, has had great influence over these proceedings. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, and their respective predecessors, have worked hard to foster negotiations there. A lot of people have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. And suddenly, the peace process is back on track.


Negotiations toward peace after an ugly protracted conflict are never easy. But the parties in Northern Ireland have persevered admirably. I have great hope that the people of Northern Ireland, from both the unionist and nationalist communities will continue to affirm each others’ rights for peace, justice, housing, jobs, education and civil society. And because of its success so far, I believe the rest of the world is taking notice. Regions across the globe see the extraordinary results achieved in Northern Ireland today. The question is: Do they understand the difficult decisions that both sides have made in order to get here?


Surely, it has not been easy. Both sides have had to compromise, to give in to some extent. And with every concession there has been a complaint within constituencies that their leaders are giving in to the others’ demands. It is a fine line that negotiators walk to keep their constituents and their opponents engaged in the conversation. Significant numbers of steadfast republicans and loyalists have expressed their concerns about Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionist leaders giving in to each other. Some have gone so far as to leave their parties for groups taking a harder line.


This is the risk that party leaders fear but must take in order to move the process forward. And it seems, by and large, that Sinn Fein and the DUP have done this. And so far, in spite of the odds, they’ve been successful keeping each other at the negotiating table, engaging the Irish and British governments, and availing of US support as well.


No matter what your politics in Northern Ireland, you have to give these parties credit for the progress they have made. The Good Friday Agreement, the St. Andrews Agreement, and most recently, the Hillsborough agreement have been more than just small steps in the right direction. My hope is that they continue on the right track, and take a few more giant leaps. I have no doubt that the rest of the world will be paying close attention. 

Jim Lamb






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                                           IIP NEWS

Director of Training, Rob Tierney, was selected as one of the Irish Echo Newspaper's Top 40 Under 40.


Here's a link to their webpage: Look on the left hand of the page and you'll see a picture of the front page of the T40U40 supplement – its below the picture of the latest edition of the paper – if you click on it – it will bring you to the actual supplement. He's on page 14.


If you can't access the paper there - here's another link:








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Taoiseach Brian Cowen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Hillsborough Castle earlier this month to announce the beginning of a devolution of policing powers in Northern Ireland.  They suggested that the transfer of powers should be completed by April 12.


Mr. Brown praised the settlement saying: 'The achievements have been as great as they are inspirational.


'This moment and this agreement belongs to the people of Northern Ireland, all of the people, and now more than ever before so does their future.'


'This is the last chapter of a long and troubled story and the beginning of a new chapter after decades of violence, years of talks, weeks of stalemate.'


Mr. Cowen said today's deal laid the foundations for a new future.


'That better future must be built on mutual respect for people of different traditions, equality and tolerance and respect for each other's political aspirations and cultural expressions and inheritance.'


First Minister Robinson (just back after his self-imposed sabbatical - see last month's Common Ground) welcomed the deal and said: 'There are some who will play politics with this agreement but the real focus in the months to come must be on building an administration at Stormont that our whole community identifies with and supports.'


Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) said that as an Irish republican he wanted to see a united Ireland but recognized that unionists preferred to maintain links with Britain.


'We need to make life better for our children and grandchildren,' he said. 'That is what this agreement must mean in practice.'


Mr. McGuinness believed the deal would be widely welcomed in Northern Ireland and throughout the island.

Policing and justice powers will be devolved to Northern Ireland from 12 April following the deal agreed by the DUP and Sinn Féin.  Nearly two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations ended late last night when DUP members agreed to back the deal brokered with Sinn Féin.


The settlement will see the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Assembly within weeks, satisfying a key republican goal, while new arrangements for overseeing Orange Order parades will meet the demands of unionists.


The talks were the longest set of continuous negotiations held in the peace process. With Sinn Féin accusing the DUP of stalling on the transfer of policing powers for the last three years, it was feared that failure to find agreement could see the collapse of the power-sharing government led by the two parties.


However, DUP leader Peter Robinson emerged from a late-night meeting of party colleagues to confirm that he had secured unanimous support for the proposals. Flanked by DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, Mr. Robinson said all members of his party were behind the blueprint for agreement.

But, in an early sign of potential discord, the Ulster Unionist party said it would not be attending the round table meeting with Brian Cowen and Gordon Brown. During the negotiations the party consistently complained that it had been kept in the dark. A spokeswoman said members wished to have sight of the proposed agreement before they give their response to the two governments.


'We have not had sight of this agreement and until we do we will not be signing up to it,' she said.


Margaret Ritchie has been elected leader of Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party.


Ms. Ritchie, who is Northern Ireland Social Development Minister, defeated the South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell in a party election.


She succeeds Mark Durkan, who resigned earlier in February after leading the party for eight years. Ms. Ritchie won the leadership contest by 222 votes to 187.


Following the announcement, Ms. Ritchie, who is the party's only minister in the power-sharing executive, made a bold pledge to make the SDLP the largest party in Northern Ireland.


'Together we can do this,' she vowed. 'We can put our party back on top and for the sake of the people of the North we must put our party back on top.'


Noting that she had risen from a local councilor to party leader in three shorts years she assured members she was not satisfied yet.


'You may ask if there's no end to this woman's ambition?' she said. 'Well there is - I want our party to rise again and I want to become First Minister.'


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams congratulated the new SDLP leader.


'I wish Margaret Ritchie well in her difficult job, and I hope that this will usher in new era of constructive and forward looking politics from the SDLP,' Mr. Adams said.


US President Barack Obama has described Northern Ireland's power-sharing deal as an important step on the path to greater peace and prosperity.   The US president said he is looking forward to meeting political leaders behind the agreement on St Patrick's Day in Washington DC.


'The president appreciates the personal contributions and steadfast support of the Taoiseach and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in support of the historic agreement achieved by Northern Ireland leaders today, which is an important step on the pathway to greater peace and prosperity for all communities on the island,' a White House statement said.


Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will meet Mr Obama at the White House on St Patrick's Day to discuss progress.   Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the deal on the devolution of policing and justice powers in NI was 'another important step toward full and lasting peace'.


Mrs. Clinton said: 'The accord they reached today will help consolidate the hard-won gains of the past decade. Northern Ireland gives us hope that, despite entrenched opposition and innumerable setbacks, diligent diplomacy and committed leadership can overcome generations of suspicion and hostility.'


Three significant paramilitary organizations have announced plans to decommission:




The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), a Republican organization  responsible for some 120 murders during the Troubles, including the killing of the British politician Airey Neave in 1979, has agreed to decommission their weapons. 


Four months ago at a commemoration ceremony in Bray, Co Wicklow, it was announced that the INLA had ended what it called its armed struggle. 


They confirmed that it had disposed of its illegal arsenal through the  Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. The organization now maintains that it is fully committed to pursuing its objectives through peaceful means.


A number of witnesses were to provide evidence of the decommissioning - one of them is Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Peter Bunting. He undertook the work with the support of ICTU General Secretary David Begg. 


The Republic of Ireland's Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has welcomed the development, as have Sinn Féin. Martin McMonagle - a member of the INLA's political wing, the Irish Republican Socialist Party - told a news conference in Belfast that conditions in Northern Ireland had changed sufficiently for the organization to pursue its objectives through other means. 


The INLA had a reputation for ruthlessness during the Troubles. Last year, it murdered a man in Derry after alleging he was involved in the drugs trade.




The Official IRA (OIRA), said it too had engaged with the decommissioning body to ensure that all weapons under its control or to which it had access were accounted for and transferred to  commission.


It said an extensive nationwide inventory had been completed to confirm and verify that all such equipment had been located, identified and transferred to the decommissioning body.


The group called on any groups still intent on a violent agenda and who declared themselves to be protectors of the community, to listen to the voice of that community.


The OIRA said it was time for such groups to leave the past and to catch up. In 1969, the IRA split into the Official IRA and the Provisionals. The OIRA took a more socialist line and announced its ceasefire in 1972, while the Provisionals became more militant.




Finally, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the House of Commons that the last loyalist paramilitary organization to hold arms, the breakaway faction of the UDA in South-East Antrim, had this afternoon 'completed their decommissioning'.


The British government had assigned a February 14 deadline for all Northern Ireland's paramilitary organizations to fully decommission their weapons.








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The National Organ Procurement Programme at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital has said that 2009 was a record year for donations and kidney transplants.


There were 270 organs obtained from 90 individuals, an increase of 21% on the previous year.


Of the organs offered, 172 were used for kidney transplants, 68 for liver transplants, 17 for heart transplants and 13 for lung transplants.


The number of kidney transplants increased by 11% and there were 18 living-donor kidney transplants performed during the year.


Mr David Hickey, clinical director for nephrology, urology and transplantation at Beaumont said the levels of donation would not have been possible without the courage and generosity of families at times of great personal loss.


He said he would like to see an increase in the number of transplant co-ordinators at a regional level, to promote more organ donation.


Mr Hickey said there was considerable discussion about possible future approaches to obtaining organs and he believed the best approach was the voluntary 'opt in' system, which currently exists.


Oscar nominations, announced earlier this month, put three Irish films in contention for the prestigious award.  The Secret of Kells is one of five films up for Best Animated Feature, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty was nominated for Best Animated Short Film, and The Door has been nominated in the Best Short Film category.

The Secret of Kells (starring Brendan Gleeson and Mick Lally with music by Kila) was mostly hand-drawn and took three years to complete. Its American premier is slated for St. Patrick’s Day.

Paul Young, producer and chief executive of Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon, which is behind the film, said the nomination was a massive shock. “It fairly much came out of the blue. We didn’t think we had a hope up against the massive amount of studio films - there’s some fairly high quality films released this year,” he said. “We just assumed we would not make it to the top five. It’s a big surprise.”

The producer said the Disney hit Up! was favorite to take the award, but Young added: “Maybe they’ll give it to the underdogs.”

Directed by Tomm Moore, the joint Irish, French and Belgian production tells the story of an orphan named Brendan who is tasked with completing the Book of Kells, and in the process earns a new life of creativity and imagination where adventure, danger and action await him.

Brown Bag Films received a nomination for Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, the second time the Dublin-based animators have been up for an Oscar. They were first nominated in 2002 for the short film Give Up Your Auld Sins.

Granny O’Grimm tells the story of a supposedly sweet old lady who loses the plot as she relays to her granddaughter her own version of Sleeping Beauty.

The Door, written and directed by Juanita Wilson and produced by Octagon Films, is based on the true story of a father and his young daughter, set in Russia in 1986.

Simon Perry, Irish Film Board chief executive, said an Oscar nomination was the best possible endorsement. “This is a great day for the Irish film industry,” Mr. Perry said. "For the The Secret of Kells , produced by an independent studio in Kilkenny, to beat off competition from the major US animation studios and win a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination is an enormous achievement.”

Other Irish nominees include animator Richard Baneham for Best Visual Effects category for his work on Avatar, and Peter J Devlin, originally from Northern Ireland and now living in Los Angeles, for Best Achievement in Sound for his work on Star Trek. 

Minister for the Arts Martin Cullen led tributes to Ireland’s five nominees and the success of the domestic film industry. “We are truly boxing and winning way above our weight here and to make the final lists is a testimony to the film-craft of our industry,” he said.  






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The Irish rugby team lost to France earlier this month, ending an unbeaten streak that stretched back to November, 2008.  After an impressive early start, Ireland fell to the French in Paris by a score of 33-10.  The loss was particularly devastating as it capped off a week of bitter exchanges between the two sides.  French player Morgan Parra publicly called the Irish squad 'cheaters,' claiming that their 2009 Grand Slam and Triple Crown titles were illegitimate.  Parra scored fifteen points in the match.


The Six Nations Championship is contested by Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and Italy.  In 2009, Ireland won both the 'Grand Slam' and 'Triple Crown' titles.  The Grand Slam is won when a team beats all five other teams in the league.  Wales relinquished the title in 2006, and it was left vacant for two years, until Wales reclaimed it in 2008.  Ireland claimed the Grand Slam during their unbeaten 2009 season, but this loss puts an end to hopes of a second consecutive title.


However, the 'Triple Crown' may still be within reach.  The Triple Crown is won when one of the four 'Home Nations' (Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales) defeats the other three teams.  The Irish will face the first challenge to the Crown next week when they face England on February 27.



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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Our Mission:





Help the Institute:


TONIGHT, February 23


The fabulous and incredible Wolfe Tones will be playing at Finnegan's Wake on the Northside at 7:30. Tickets are available by calling 412-478-2799. The event is a fundraiser for the Pittsburgh Celtics & Pittsburgh Banshees Gaelic Football teams and the Ladies Division 11 AOH.


Thursday, February 25


The ‘Window to Ireland’ course at Allegheny County Community College South, at Brentwood High School. Designed for you who would like to learn more about Ireland and her heritage. Four Thursday evenings beginning tonight, Information 412.758.5446


Fundraiser at ‘Spaghetti Warehouse’ for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Come in with your family or friends anytime between 4 – 10 p.m. and the Spaghetti Warehouse will donate 10% of the total restaurant sales to the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee; Corner of 26th & Smallman Streets. You Need a coupon (412) 261-6511


St. Patrick’s Day Parade Fundraiser at Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, 2329 Penn Ave., in The Strip. Raffles, baskets, entertainment with Ballad Singer, Terry Griffith, and Guaranteed Irish beginning at 6:00 PM. 


Saturday, February 27


Saint Teresa of Avila, 1000 Avila Court, Pittsburgh PA 15237 is sponsoring their ‘Irish Fest 2010’ in Henninger Auditorium. The event features and Irish Mass at 6:00 PM, Irish Dinner at 7:15 PM, and Entertainment with Guaranteed Irish and the Bell School of Irish Dance after Dinner. Tickets: $25. Information & Reservations 412.367.9001. Raffles & Door Prizes.


Saturday, March 20


A unique concert will be held featuring a traditional music ensemble from the British Isles and Ireland, The Boys of the Lough. They will play at Rick & Shanan Jackson's home in Sewickley Heights on March 20.


Tickets are sold only in advance at their agent’s website:, and seating is limited to 120. The great piper Alasdair Gillies, an old friend of the Boys of the Lough, will also be performing during this memorable evening. Free refreshments at reception and free valet parking.


Any questions, email or call me at 412 323-2707. I hope to see you there!


Friday, March 5


St. Patrick’s Day Parade Button Party at Mitchell’s Restaurant, 304 Ross Street, Downtown Pittburgh. 5:30PM.


Cherish The Ladies in Concert at The Byham Theatre, 8:00 PM, Sixth Street, downtown Pittsburgh. Tickets 412.471.456.6666, online Irish Traditional instrumentals and vocals. Readers of the Common Ground can avail of a 10% discount by phoning 412-471-6930 and imention The Common Ground


Saturday, March 6

The 14th Annual Wheeling Celtic Celebration takes place in downtown Wheeling, WV. Celtic music, dance, entertainment with Brigid’s Cross, Maidens IV, MacDonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh, Peg Roach Loyd, Ballad Singer, Mike Gallagher, the Burke Conroy and Bell Schools of Irish Dance, Celtic Marketplace, children’s activity, ethnic foods. Information 1.800.828.3097

Sunday, March 7


AOH Division 9, Oakland and Allegheny County Board AOH Mass & Communion Breakfast, at the Sheraton Station Square, Ballroom No. 3, at 10:00 AM. Celebrant will be Bishop David A. Zubik. Program Book Advertisements taken until February 26. Information: John McEvoy 412.431.7196 or or Kevin Conboy at or 412.979.9105.


“Row On for Brendan” Concert at Central Catholic, Fifth Ave., in Oakland, 7:00 PM. Music with Guaranteed Irish, Mike Gallagher, Hooley, an Irish Step-Dance or two with Kiernan Coleman, and the Central Catholic Glee Club.

Friday, March 12


Pittsburgh Ceili Club will sponsor their ‘Kick-Off Ceili’ at Epiphany Church, across from the Arena. Tickets $20 in advance for members; $25 non-members and at door. Reservations: 412-486-2684. Appetizers at 7:00 PM.


Saturday, March 13


St. Patrick’s Day Parade, downtown Pittsburgh. ‘New Location’ Stepping off from 11th & Smallman Streets at 10:00AM.


Irish Centre of Pittsburgh, 6886 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill, 6:30PM, Dinner & Entertainment with NaGaels and Irish Step Dancers: Reservations with Mary Clark 412-761-3897. $20 per person, children under 18 Free.


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

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





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 -

Michael Murphy & TSRB

Na Gaels  -

Jack Puskar  -  

Red Hand Paddy  -

Rolling Scones  -




Friends of Saint Patrick

Pittsburgh is developing its Northern Irish links with the creation of a 'Friends of Saint Patrick Chapter' in the city. The Friends organization is based in Downpatrick, Co Down at the Saint Patrick Centre (pictured above) - a non-profit reconciliation organization which houses the only permanent exhibition about the World about Irelands Patron Saint. Friends seek to generate a better understanding of all of the traditions in Northern Ireland - particularly in counties Down and Armagh. The new Chapter is seeking a 'Young Ambassador’ aged 20-25 from Pittsburgh to go to Northern Ireland for 15 days this June to explore various aspects of the history and traditions of the island of Ireland and develop their own chosen cultural dissertations.


The aim of the Young Ambassador Program is to establish a network of informed and influential individuals throughout North America who can actively represent the northern part of Ireland throughout their lives. 'Northern Ireland provides an incredibly diverse platform to learn about many social and cultural aspects of contemporary and historical life in Ireland as well as a developing model for community reconciliation which is relevant to many cities in North America.'’ said Center Director Dr Tim Campbell during his visit to the Ireland Institute last month. 'Young Ambassadors will develop a meaningful and on-going relationship with Chapters of the Friends of Saint Patrick, the Saint Patrick Center and organizations linked to the Program. Accommodation and Travel will be covered within this program and we are very excited about growing our Chapter in Pittsburgh as we have done elsewhere in America.’ On-line applications and more information is available at  with a 17th March deadline.

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, the Irish Emigrant, the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish Examiner, BBC, and other news sources.