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The Common Ground

Vol. VI, Issue 1


      January 2008





In 2008, the Common Ground will feature you! Your stories, past and present, will be our feature column this year. Tell us how your family came to the United States from Ireland, how you celebrate your Irish heritage, or how you enjoy Irish history and culture. Send your photos and stories (about 200 words) to during the first week of each month.







letter from the editor 



No doubt, 2007 has been a year to remember. We witnessed historic events in Northern Ireland with the reconvening of a local assembly. We saw significant changes in the political landscape of this country and this region as well, including majority shifts in Congress and in Harrisburg, and an interesting Pittsburgh Mayor's race. Other local headlines included a new Steelers head coach, gambling, and plans to celebrate Pittsburgh's 250th birthday.

The Ireland Institute had and interesting year as well. We hosted three Wider Horizons Programs--over 50 young people from Ireland, North and South. We continued to serve another 50 participants on the Walsh Visa Program. And we managed the return home of Stephen Ferris, Rooney Fellow, and the arrival of his successor, Ryan Carragher. Ryan's stay also brought about an appearance on Irish television for the Institute.

We hosted the head of Ireland's largest Clan, Hugo O'Neill, a symbol of Ireland's rich history. And two months later we hosted Mark Durkan, leader of Northern Ireland's Social Democratic Labour Party, who hopes to help shape Ireland's successful future. We also enjoyed the talent of Ireland's finest musicians and dancers at our only fundraising event, featuring the brilliant show, "Echoes of Erin," a production of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann.

And we began a new chapter at the Institute, developing our peace models for transfer to other regions of conflict. After a thorough study in Cyprus, the Institute submitted a proposal to facilitate reconciliation and job training to Christian and Muslim communities from that island.

The Institute was honored for its hard work over the years, winning the coveted Bridge Award for 2007.

We also said goodbye to some good friends of the Institute: Fr. Frank Lackner; Author, John O'Donoghue; Board Member, John Kirkwood; former Board member, Tom O'Donoghue; former host mother, Mary Folan; volunteers, friends and supporters, Marc Flaherty, Kevin Burns, Bridget Connolly, Larry Minnock, Bernie Cloonan, and Patsy Shovlin.

So as 2008 begins, we remember the good and bad of 2007. And we move on. A trade delegation to Ireland leaves Pittsburgh in April. Companies interested in developing international partnerships will find all that Ireland has to offer for business, lifestyle, culture, and much more.

We will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement with our friends at Belfast City Council during this visit. This historic signing, which led to the disarmament of the IRA and other paramilitary groups, will also be recognized with events in Pittsburgh and many other activities, many of them mentioned in these pages. Stay tuned for more details.

Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh





APRIL 4-12, 2008

The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh, in partnership with the British American Business Council and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, will lead a special delegation to Ireland. The delegation leaves Pittsburgh Friday, April 4 and returns Saturday, April 12.  

The Republic of Ireland has much to offer Pittsburgh businesses interested in expanding globally.  Economic performance there is consistently strong. Ireland hosts many European headquarters of the world's largest companies, some of the largest manufacturing and distribution businesses, more than half the top 20 insurance companies and more than half the world's largest banks. 

Northern Ireland’s economy, like Pittsburgh’s, has transformed in recent decades, moving from manufacturing to a service-led, outward looking knowledge economy.  Over 700 foreign investors now operate in Northern Ireland, employing 70,000 people. Recent investors include Microsoft, Caterpillar, Seagate Technology and HBOS.

North and South, Ireland now promotes an all-island economy, determined to facilitate business and research partnerships with Pittsburgh and the world.


This visit will have special meaning as this year is the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, which brought sustained peace and hope for a shared future in Northern Ireland.


For further details log onto our website or call Jim Lamb on (412) 394-3900.


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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Northern Ireland's Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey, announced this week that from April next year staff will be allocated a minimum of 28 days off — a jump of eight days.

The new legislation means than anyone who currently receives less than 28 days including statutory days — an estimated 150,000 low-paid employees across Northern Ireland — will benefit.  Sir Reg said the increase in holidays will help workers "strike a better work-life balance and spend more time with family and friends".

However, the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) in Northern Ireland has warned that "all absence from work comes at a cost" and said consumers could face an increase in prices. Stephen Alambritis, spokesman for the FSB, said: "All leave from work has to be paid for and met for by the business, by the economy, and sometimes that is met by an increase in prices which disadvantages consumers.  It is good for workers … but all absence from work comes at a cost and has to be met and invariably this cost may be passed on to higher prices for the consumer.  It could be that any more generous time-off regulations will start to impact on the competitiveness of businesses in Belfast and Northern Ireland."

"Large companies can soak up the costs but for the vast majority of small business in Northern Ireland— which employ less than 20 people— they will find it very difficult to recoup the cost of extra leave just by adding to prices so it will cause difficulty for some very tiny businesses."

Former Secretary of State Peter Hain announced last January that workers should be receiving 30 days holiday, but after devolution that number was reduced to 28 days.  


Aer Arann will be linking Galway and Waterford with Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Malaga in southern Spain and Faro in southern Portugal. The new services, which are being run under a franchise agreement with Nex Aviation, will commence on May 1. The Amsterdam link especially will give Irish travelers much more flexibility. Garry Cullen, Managing Director at Aer Arann says, "Schiphol offers the best connections of any airport in the world, with more than 260 destinations in 91 countries.


In response to changing social needs and an increasingly diverse society, the Republic's Department of Education will be piloting several inter-denominational schools, breaking Ireland’s long tradition of church-run education.  The Irish Bishops' Conference has welcomed the announcement, stating the schools are being provided at a critical time and will assure a wide variety of access to primary education in accordance with the wishes of parents.

The Catholic Church welcomes choice and diversity within the national education system, while still providing Catholic schools to meet the needs of parents who wish their children to have a Catholic education.

The Irish Vocational Education Association, representing Ireland's 33 Vocational Education Committees, has also welcomed Minister Mary Hanafin's announcement.

It has described it as an historic and significant event.  From September two new inter-denominational VEC schools will open on a pilot basis at the Phoenix Park and at Phibblestown in Co Dublin.



The European Parliament in Strasbourg voted in favor of introducing an EU directive to facilitate consumers obtaining credit across EU borders.  The proposed legislation aims to make it easier for consumers to shop around for the best offers from banks or credit companies in another European country. It is expected to come into effect by early 2010.










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Monday, January 28, 2008

Carnegie Music Hall 7:30 pm

Irish author Roddy Doyle’s first acclaimed novel The Commitments was made into a popular feature film directed by Alan Parker. Five novels later, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha won the prestigious Booker Prize. Of Paula Spencer(2006), his ninth, Scotland on Sundays says, “Doyle has created a little masterwork, a gem of persuasive realism.”

For more information or to buy tickets, call 412.622.8866 or go to

For more about Mr. Doyle's books, visit



Residents of a new housing estate in north Cork have cut their energy bills by more than 60%.  Baile Glas, the 12-house estate at Lombardstown, is heated almost exclusively by sunlight and residents have been enjoying round-the-clock heat and constant hot water without using electricity.  Baile Glas is the first 'eco' estate in the country built for social and affordable housing.

Eight of the houses are rented to tenants; the other four are being sold for just €180,000.

The southern facades of the houses are used to harness sunlight for heating and hot water. The houses also have more insulation than a conventional house, which makes them more energy-efficient.  Residents say the savings they enjoy in fuel bills make them never want to leave Baile Glas.  Blackwater Resource Development, which promoted the Baile Glas project, is drawing up plans for the next phase of the development.


According to the Department of Agriculture, 950 farmers in Northern Ireland have planted 1,600 hectares of wild bird cover, which allows birds to find food while expending less energy, helping them survive the winter.   Farmers taking part in the Countryside Management Scheme (CMS) and Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) scheme are encouraged to plant a limited area of spring-sown crop aimed at getting calories into birds to give them the energy and nutrients they need to survive.

Co Down farmer Robert Martin has planted a few small fields of wild bird cover. As an arable farmer he was already equipped to sow a wild bird crop himself, and it fitted in with his wider objective of encouraging wildlife on the farm.  He said he has noticed more yellowhammers in recent years, which he attributes to the wild bird cover. This small farm bird is an indicator of the presence of other bird species which also benefit from farm seed sources, including greenfinches, linnets and tree sparrows.  The presence of birds and other wildlife helps reduce the number of insects and other invertebrates feeding on the crop in the summer.

 Reducing winter and spring mortality rates is vital to halt the decline in numbers of farmland birds and increase their distribution from current strongholds.  Farmers can choose between one or two-year mixes, which are sown every other year. The crop is not harvested but can be grazed between March 1 and establishment.


Gosford Castle, a Neo-Norman structure finished in 1850, has undergone yet another transformation.  Located in Markethill, Co. Armagh and initially the home of the Earls of Gosford, the castle was emptied in 1921 and finally sold after World War II.  Since then, it has been used as Army headquarters, storage for the Public Record Office, winter quarters for traveling circus, and a neglected, empty building centuries from its glory days.  Now developers in the area are giving it the chance for a fairytale ending.

The 150 rooms of the original castle have been divided into 23 individual houses, with their own front doors, staircases and hallways. Despite asking prices of up to £1.5m, the appeal of living the castle lifestyle has meant options are being snapped up without any advertising.  The first tenants moved in this week, with more on the way.

 Landscaping is also being completed on the immense nine acres of land surrounding the 19th Century estate.  The successful bidders for the development was the Belfast based Boyd Partnership, who completed the sale in early 2006. The castle, lands, walled garden and car park were sold off by the Government for just £1,000.  Arthur Acheson, of the Boyd Partnership, said: "Six of the units will be completed by the end of January and one unit was occupied before Christmas, we are delighted to have reached this stage".

Mr. Acheson said that the finished houses are three bedroom abodes but there are plans to offer four and five bedroom residences too.







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Soccer: The fourth Setanta Sports Cup will kick-off on Tuesday, 26 February, with Drogheda United bidding to win the cross-border competition for the third consecutive year. The Eircom League of Ireland champions have been drawn in Section One of the competition alongside Cork City, Dungannon Swifts and newcomers Cliftonville. 

Section Two of the competition will involve Linfield, Glentoran, Derry City and St Patrick's Athletic. Linfield won the inaugural tournament in 2005. 

The competition, commonly known as the Setanta Cup, is a club football competition featuring teams from both football associations on the island of Ireland. It was inaugurated in 2005 as a cross-border competition between clubs from the FAI League of Ireland from the Republic of Ireland and the Irish League from Northern Ireland.

This season's event sees a change to the format, with the fixtures beginning in February and ending in October. The first round of matches will be played on 26 February, with a total of three series of matches being played by 15 April.  

The competition will then have a four-month break before recommencing on 1 September, with the final due to be played on 18 October.

WIDER HORIZONS 2008 - Host FaMily Program

The new year has arrived, and with it some news about Ireland Institute programming. We have received some exciting news from Northern Ireland that we can look forward to as many as three Wider Horizons Programs this year.

The goal of our program is to provide young people from the North of Ireland and border counties of the Republic with employment and personal development skills. Participants stay with Host Families while in Pittsburgh. Host Families provide the Institute’s Irish and British participants with an opportunity to learn about American family life. The participants welcome the opportunity to interact with families and children and become familiar with American customs and culture. Participating families have the unforgettable experience of learning first-hand about the new Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Hosts provide accommodation for participants, meals as per the family schedule and a nurturing environment for the young people, who are generally aged between 18-26. For their efforts families receive a weekly stipend for each participant they host.

If you are interested in becoming a Host Family, please contact Robert Tierney at or phone (412) 4394-3900.

















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Our Mission:


Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre ‘King Lear’ Apr. 9-26. 'An Ideal Husband' May 8-31. 'Salome' June 12-28. 'The Playboy of the Western World' July 17-Aug 16. Performances at the Charity Randal Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial.  Info; PICT 412.561.6000. Tickets  or 412.394.3353.

Friday, January 18th - ***Tonight***


Robert Burns Celebration Concert at First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, 8:00 PM, 320 Sixth Avenue, Downtown Pgh.  Featured performers ‘the musicians of Road to the Isles, George Balderose, Richard Hughes, Charles May, Bob Murdoch, Gordon Reid, Jacqui Pressley, & Bob Galbraith, Emcee.  Information 412.471.3436.

Saturday, January 26th


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

Sunday, January 27th

The Gaelic Arts Society will present Ken Gray on the ‘Catalpa’ ship that rescued Irish men from an Australian prison.  Synod Hall at 2:30 PM.  For information call Earl McCabe at 412.761.1844.

Monday, January 28th

Roddy Doyle will take part in the Drue Heinz Lectures at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland at 7:30pm on Monday, January 28th.  For tickets, call 412.622.8866 or go to

become a regular at these local programs!

 Listen to Echoes of Erin, now in its 19th 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.


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


Tuesday, February 26th


The fabulous and incredible Wolfe Tones in concert, presented by Pittsburgh Celtics, Pittsburgh Banshees & LAOH Div. 11 at Finnegan's Wake on the Northside. Doors open 6pm.Tickets available from (412) 478.2799

Sunday, February 17th

Gaelic Arts Society of Pittsburgh presents Jacqui Pressley, Director of the Pressley Highland Scottish Dancers.  Jacqui will present and talk about Scottish Dancing.  Synod Hall 2:30 PM.

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.


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