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The Common Ground

Vol. V, Issue 1


      January 2007



                 News Updates






letter from the editor 


They say that painful loss often comes in "threes." And so it was last week as three of my heroes passed.

Fr. Francis Lackner, a legend in Pittsburgh's Irish community, was known for his imposing stature and sense of humor. He served as chaplain to the Ancient Order of Hibernians for years. Thoughts of Fr. Lackner will always remind me to apppreciate my faith and enjoy my life.

Mark Flaherty, a native of Carraroe, co. Galway, rose to become a respected labor leader in Pittsburgh. He played a significant part in my introduction to Pittsburgh's Irish community through the All-Ireland Socials and the Currach Club. His subtle wit and his knack for making newcomers feel welcome gave many a sense of belonging.

David Ervine, a former loyalist paramilitary operative met me a few years ago to advise me on program recruitment in Belfast's unionist neighborhoods. I found him to be a reasonable man who simply wanted the best for his constituents. He inspired leaders and ordinary citizens from both communities to find common ground and move forward in peace.

Thankfully, beyond the pain of loss there is legacy-the memory of a life lived fully. We mourn the death then celebrate the life that was.

Three honorable men left the world a better place and strengthened my faith in God and in mankind. For these gifts I will celebrate.

Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh


This month, we continue our series about Pittsburgh's Irish Organizations featuring information about the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh..


In our Letter from the Editor section, Jim comments on the passing of three of his heroes.


There's also a look at the latest political progress in Northern Ireland as well as a visit by some of it's top artists.




The Irish Centre is nearing its 40th anniversary, having been founded in 1966 by Irish immigrants and the children of Irish immigrants as a way to foster Irish culture in future generations.  Its present location was obtained in 1964 by some forward thinking individuals that saw a need to maintaining Irish culture in dance, music, literature, the visual arts, culinary arts and language all while sharing in fellowship with like minded people.

The Irish Centre is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization whose mission is to provide opportunities for those interested in the culture of Ireland, to pursue those interests and to promote the culture of the Isle of Saints and Scholars.

This years sees a full season of programs at the centre including the Burke School of Irish Dance hosting their classes there, a summer family camp-out, a winter camp-in, two ‘Taste of Ireland’ events, pool opening & closing picnics, an ‘Spring Cleaning’ Garage Sale, a “Night at the Races’ event, Gael Force (an annual concert featuring local Irish musicians) is coming back in May, a children’s Halloween/Samhain party, and Christmas-Annual General Membership Party/meeting to name but a few.

St. Patrick’s Parade Day is always a special day for the members and friends of Irish Centre with members marching in the parade proudly, then coming back to the Centre for an evening of traditional Irish music, food and beverages.  On the feast day of our patron saint (March 17th) a Catholic Mass is held, typically in Gaelic with the help of Father Sean Kealy.  This is followed with a social including tea, coffee and traditional Irish breads.  

The Irish Centre of Pittsburgh is located on Forward Avenue, just below the bridge at the Swissvale side of the Parkway East. The banquet hall is constantly going through renovations that have seen the facility change over the years.  In 2003 a “pub area” was built to make for smaller, cozier gatherings of less than 100. It has played host to many different celebrations over the years.

As if all this wasn't enough the Centre operates a 20 metre swimming pool during the summer months - an ideal location to cool off!

For information on how to become a member or details of upcoming events, contact: The Irish Centre of Pittsburgh, 6886 Forward Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213, (412) 521-9712 or (724) 834-0233.


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 Omagh bomb trial of Sean Hoey has come to a close in Belfast. Mr Hoey, 37, from Jonesborough in south Armagh has denied all the charges against him. The unemployed electrician was arrested over three years ago and was accused of murdering the 29 people killed in the attack carried out by the Real IRA on August 15, 1998, in Omagh, County Tyrone. He also faced a range of other terrorist-linked charges. The judge in the case, Mr. Justice Weir said that he would make his judgement after reviewing the “great deal of material” before him. Defense counsel Orlando Pownall completed his submission by saying that the only proper verdicts are ones of not guilty on each of the remaining counts.


1953 - 2007

Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine died in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Monday January 8th. Mr Ervine, 53, was taken to hospital after suffering a heart attack at his home on Sunday. He later had a stroke and a brain haemorrhage. Mr Ervine, a former UVF prisoner, was a key figure in brokering the loyalist paramilitary ceasefire of 1994 and had been a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for East Belfast since 1998

Among the mourners at Mr. Ervine's funeral was Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. The gesture was viewed as a great reflection of how far Northern Irish politics have come in recent times. Stepping onto the loyalist Newtownards Road was Adams' first official visit which marked a historic moment that many people thought they would never see.

Mr. Ervine, who is survived by his wife Jeanette and two sons, became the leader of the PUP in 2002 after replacing Belfast councilor Hugh Smyth.


Sinn Fein are taking further steps to deliver on policing by aiming to enhance the PSNI’s image within the republican community. The Sinn Fein leadership is to hold debates across Northern Ireland to sell to grass-roots republicans the idea of backing policing. The party's executive decided on Saturday to hold a special conference on the issue in Dublin on 28 January. More than 2,000 republicans will vote. 

DUP leader Ian Paisley said the decision to call a conference was "a step forward”. He said it would only be movement when there was delivery on the ground. "The question is do they intend to proceed with offering support to the police and the courts and encouraging their supporters to do so as soon as the motion is passed?" he said. "The DUP will not be moving until there is full delivery on the ground and the DUP will not be found wanting if there is." 

Some republicans view accepting policing as a step too far but prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern see it as crucial for restoring devolution. Mr Blair also insists the DUP must pledge to share power with republicans. 

Assembly elections are planned for 7 March, and 26 March is the two governments' target date for the restoration of devolution. 

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams told party colleagues on Saturday they had taken "the historic and courageous decision to proceed to an ard fheis on policing despite the failure of the DUP to respond positively". 

The decision to hold the conference was welcomed by the British and Irish governments, as well as PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde.  Mark Durkan, leader of the nationalist SDLP, said Sinn Fein's ard fheis must agree to "accept policing, with no ifs or buts". Ulster Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey called for DUP leaders to meet the leadership of Sinn Fein "openly and with the public's knowledge, rather than more of these discussions going on behind people's backs".


The US financial company Citigroup has announced further expansion at its Belfast offices. It is planning to create 117 jobs by setting up a new operations division during the course of this year. 

Recruitment will begin at the end of January. The investment is being supported with a grant of £1.6m from Invest Northern Ireland. 

The recruitment will bring the total employment to more than 500 staff by the end of this year. 

Citigroup is the largest bank in the United States










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Michael Jackson moving to N. IRELAND?!

Moon walking king of pop Michael Jackson is moving house ... and could have Co Antrim in his sights. 

Irish and English betting company, Ladbrokes, are even giving 16/1 odds on the 'Black and White' singer choosing to set up home in that part of Ulster.

The pop superstar, who has holidayed in Ireland many times, has been living in the Middle East since he was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005. 

The 48-year-old also paid a visit to a Dublin dentist late last year, in preparation for his appearance at The World Music Awards, where he was honored with the Diamond Award for his achievements in the industry. 

He has sold over one hundred million records since he started singing over four decades ago. 

On the Ladbrokes website, the question reads: 'Which county will Michael Jackson choose to purchase his new home?' 

The odds on him opting for Fermanagh are currently 20/1, with 33/1 on Down and Tyrone and, at the bottom of the list, Armagh and Derry are sitting at 50/1.


A new catalogue of material on the Northern Ireland Troubles has been launched by Queen's University and the University of Ulster.  It features under-used and incompletely documented material over the last 35 years. 

The catalogue has been created by ARK, a social and political archive run jointly between Queen's University Belfast and the University of Ulster.

It contains transcripts of interviews, video and audio recordings, photos and political pamphlets. Academics believe the catalogue and its associated archived material will be a valuable resource for researchers and commentators. 

Queen's professor, Robert Miller, said the material had "great potential for addressing issues of reconciliation and the study of violence, both for comparative research and to help promote the peace process in Northern Ireland". 

"While some blocks of the material relating to the conflict in Northern Ireland contained in the catalogue are archived in sites such as the BBC, UTV and the Linenhall Library, effective use of the bulk of what is potentially available had been thwarted by its wide dispersion and the lack of any comprehensive central index." 


A number of Northern Ireland artists will have their art showcased at a groundbreaking exhibition hosted by Carnegie Mellon University from January 25th - March 30th this year. 'Tides' will take place at the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery at the Purnell Center for Arts and will include featured art by painters, videographers, sculptors, installation artists, performance artists, and photographers.

The gallery will also host several talks given by some of the various artists in the hope of generating conversation surrounding some of the themes raised in the pieces.

Among the artists featured will be: Ian Charlesworth, Seamus Harahan, Michael Hogg, Mary McIntyre, Aisling O'Brien and Darren Murray.

'Tides' and all programming will be free and open to the public.


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

This Summer & Fall, over forty young men and women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland arrived in Pittsburgh to participate in our Wider Horizons program.  Both groups from Tyrone & Donegal and Monaghan & Armagh received on-the-job training, personal development, exposure to American culture, and new insights into the problems at home through conflict resolution.  After their program they participants return to Ireland, hopeful of securing employment and living in peace. 


A key success in both these programs has been our Host Family program - the young people are placed with host families during their stay in Pittsburgh.  Those of you who are currently hosting or 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.


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






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David Beckham, former English International soccer player was the name on everyone's lips in Ireland and Northern Ireland this week. He has just made the move from Spanish giants Real Madrid to join Major League Soccer in the USA playing for LA Galaxy. The deal is said to be $250 million over five years!

Beckham is following in the footsteps of Northern Ireland's own favorite son, George Best who had come to California to play for the now-defunct Los Angeles Aztecs in the 1970s, one of several big-name imports, including Brazil's Pele, who tried but failed to transform soccer into a major U.S. sport. Best, whose dazzling career as one of soccer's greatest players was cut short by a painful descent into alcoholism, died at age 59 in 2005.

Beckham has said his motivation for coming to the United States is to help take the sport to "another level" in a country that has stubbornly refused to fully embrace the world's most popular game.

















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Our Mission:


A Taste of Ireland’ Concert & Social at the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh, 6886 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill, with Na Gaels, an Irish band performing Irish Traditional Music.  Tickets $12.00 Members, $15.00 Non Members includes refreshments.  Information Big Mac at 412.951.7068   Email:  Guinness is the featured 'taste'                                                                       Saturday, January 20th

Cash Bash presented by Allegheny County Board of Ancient Order of Hibernians at West View Firemen's Banquet Hall. Doors open at 6:00pm. For tickets call Dan Devinney at 412.687.2459                                                                   Saturday, January 27th

‘Continuing The Dream’ – Event honoring Late Mayor Bob O’Connor, sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, at Heinz Hall at 7:30 pm.  High-profile Western Pennsylvania arts organizations will combine their singing, dancing and theatrical talents, including The Shovlin Academy of Irish Dance.  Tickets on Sale Monday, January 15th  - 412.392.4600; online at  or at Heinz Hall Box Office                                                Tuesday, February 6th

'Irish Fest 2007' sponsored by Saint Teresa of Avila, 1000 Avila Court, Pgh PA 15237, featuring an Irish Mass at 6pm, Irish Dinner and Irish Entertainment with Guaranteed Irish & the Burke School of Irish Dance.  Information 412.367.9001.  Tickets $25, Raffles & Door Prizes.                         Saturday, February 24th


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

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.

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.