The Common Ground

Vol. VIII, Issue 1


January 2010



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Yes, we all had a good laugh at the shocker last week that  Iris Robinson, age 61, a member of the British Parliament and wife of Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, had an affair with a 19-year old.  And she arranged for her young lover to acquire significant money to open a restaurant in Belfast. Jokes flew across the internet.  Media outlets had a field day.  One of Paul Simon’s greatest songs came to life.


Now, as the dust from this shameful incident settles, we are seeing and feeling the serious ramifications of Mrs. Robinson’s affair.   Specifically, the man who, in my opinion, held the fate of the Northern Ireland Peace Process in his hands, is stepping away from his position of leadership at a time when that peace process is at a critical stage.  Prior to the revelation of Iris’ indiscretions, Peter Robinson was a man already caught between a rock and a hard place.  Irish Republicans, led by Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, had been pressing Robinson to move forward on the devolution of Justice and Policing, which would give the Stormont government full authority over these institutions.  Meanwhile, hard line unionists, like Jim Allister, founding leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice, derided Robinson and his party for cooperating at any level with republicans.  In spite of his tough talk toward both republicans and staunch unionists, Robinson walked a very tight rope in his effort to remain in charge.  Even members of his own party were seen to be turning away from him. 


Since 1998, when political leaders signed on to the Good Friday Agreement, effectively ending  the thirty-year war that defined that region, the world has watched a peace process take shape.  Leaders came together to sort out their differences democratically.  Communities began to understand that they had more in common with their “enemies” than they realized.  My own reflections on the Institute’s interventions over twenty years bear an ever-growing patch of common ground between catholics and protestants, unionists and nationalists.


Now that Peter Robinson has removed himself from leadership, the process for peace is stalled.  Not destroyed, but stalled.  The Assembly and the Executive at Stormont will face 2010 with DUP member, Arlene Foster as the First Minister.  Will she work cooperatively with republicans?  Will she hold the hard line of staunch unionists?  Will she merely go through the motions until another election comes around?


Republicans have stated they will not wait forever for the devolution of Police and Justice.  And they have policy statements they intend to pursue regarding Irish language, education, and other issues important to their constituents.  The DUP leadership, whether it be Ms. Foster or someone else, has to move in order to keep Stormont operating democratically.  When will that happen?  Which way will they go?  Those are the questions that need to be answered.  There remains a small number of dissidents on both sides of the sectarian and political divide that continue to wreak havoc on the peace process.  The longer the DUP waits to make a deal on policing and justice, the stronger dissident voices become.  They should be dealt with sooner rather than later. 


Too many people have worked too long and risked too much to let Northern Ireland remilitarize.  There are so many important issues to be dealt with at Stormont, like the economy, improving the standard of living, educating young people, maintaining infrastructure, immigration, jobs, energy, the environment, and so on. 


Over the next few weeks I will wonder whether the “Mrs. Robinson” scandal will be recalled as a humorous diversion during a cold January, 2010.  Or will it be the event that brought Northern Ireland back to war.  We shall see.

Jim Lamb






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Northern Ireland was rocked last week with both the revelation that First Minister and DUP Leader Peter Robinson’s wife Iris had an affair with a nineteen year old, and the horrific attack on a young PSNI officer by dissident republicans.


Along with the revelations about the Robinson’s private life has also been allegations that she got £50,000 from two Belfast property developers and gave the money to the 19-year-old man and asked him for £5,000 back in cash.  Current affairs program on BBC Northern Ireland went as far as to suggest that Peter Robinson was aware of this financial arrangement.


The big concern among political commentators is that if Peter Robinson doesn’t survive the scandal, his replacement as leader of the DUP could be a candidate who is more hard-line and unwilling to engage with Sinn Fein in a power-sharing government. Sinn Fein’s request that policing be fully removed from London to Stormont is something the DUP can’t agree on.


Commentators believe that if the policing and justice issue can be resolved – that it would bolster the political process and show detractors that politics does work.


Peter Robinson has now stepped aside (for 6 weeks) leaving power-sharing on a knife-edge. He has been replaced by Arlene Foster who made it clear that the DUP wanted a return to a normal political agenda. Iris Robinson, also an MLA has resigned her position in Stormont.


Meanwhile against this backdrop of concerns over policing, in Randallstown, Co. Antrim, 33 year old, PSNI and Gaelic Games enthusiast, Peadar Heffron was horrifically injured when a device exploded in his car – a grim reminder of political instability. He underwent major surgery (with the loss of a leg) at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and remains in a critical but stable condition (at time of writing). 


Dissident republicans have claimed responsibility for the attack – in an effort to de-stabilize the peace process.


The Republic's Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has confirmed that he intends to continue in office, despite being diagnosed with cancer.


The Minister's health has been the subject of intense speculation since it was reported on St Stephen's Day that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.


In a statement, Mr Lenihan confirmed that he will need chemotherapy and possibly radiotherapy after cancerous tissue was removed from the entrance to his pancreas. He said doctors are not able to operate because the cancerous tissue is near a blood vessel but that he will require treatment. Crucially though, he says his pancreas is now functioning normally, and his doctors advise that he is fit to continue his duties.


Mr Lenihan said he will not be accepting speaking engagements during his treatment, but will continue to carry out his duties in the Department, in the Dáil, and at Cabinet. He said he was aware of the importance of his office, and that if the position were to change, he would be the first to recognize it.


Fine Gael has described as 'commendable' Mr Lenihan's statement about his illness and his determination to concentrate his energies on the Department of Finance. In a statement, the party's finance spokesman Richard Bruton wished Mr Lenihan a full and speedy recovery. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has also extended his best wishes to Mr Lenihan. 'My thoughts at this time are with Minister Lenihan and his family. I wish him well with his treatment and hope to see him make a speedy recovery,' said Mr Adams.


Brian Lenihan's father, also named Brian, was a member of Fianna Fail and a TD between 1961 and 1995 when he died from Liver problems.


Irish people of a certain generation fondly talk about the 'big snow of 1982', others with farther-reaching memory recall 'the big snow of 63'. There's even some old ancients from Co. Mayo who will swear blind the biggest was 'the big snow of 47'. The younger generation have just experienced for themselves what they will surely refer to in years to come as 'the big snow of 2010'!


The cold weather caused problems throughout the country during the first 10days of 2010. Air travelers had difficulty getting into and out of the country, road users were urged to stay at home or use public transport, public transport was suspended at times, pedestrians kept falling over and put pressure on hospital A&E units, schoolchildren for the most part had no schools to go to and politicians argued about who to blame. 

With last Monday 4th being the first day back at work for a large proportion of the working population, motorists and pedestrians were warned to be careful as many roads were icy. As the week progressed that situation deteriorated; airports closed for a time taking days to clear the backlog. Each day the Morning Ireland program on RTÉ radio carried long lists of roads which were dangerous to drive on as a result of the icy conditions. 

For the most part only national roads were gritted which resulted in politicians putting on displays of indignation at the failure to have enough salt available to treat minor roads. The reality of the situation is that Ireland only experiences snow storms, like those seen. every 20-25years.

Schools around the country were due to reopen on Thursday 7th, after the Christmas holiday, but most remained closed. On Friday, with the forecast for severe weather on Sunday, Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe ordered all schools in the country to remain closed until Thursday at the earliest. He later rescinded the notice and most schools finally returned on Tuesday 12th.

Even in daytime the temperature seldom ventured much above zero and in many parts of the country remained below freezing for days on end. The lowest temperature in the country was -12.4C (10F) recorded at Baldonnell, Co. Dublin. 


The Ulster Defence Association has announced that all its weapons had been "put beyond use", bringing the organization into line with the North's other major paramilitary groups. Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward had set a February deadline for the destruction of weapons. Firearms found after that date will be subject to forensic examination and, if it is established that they were used in any past incidents, then charges could follow.

The news of the decommissioning was widely welcomed, with President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Foreign Affairs all issuing statements of approval.

Mr Cowen thanked Lord Eames and Sir George Quigley who acted as witnesses to decommissioning. He also paid particular tribute to "Dr Martin McAleese and those who worked with him for their outreach and confidence-building work".


The number of people signing on the Live Register increased by 10,090 in December, to reach 423,595. Seasonally adjusted, however, the situation wasn't quite so bad as, on that measure, an additional 3,300 became unemployed. The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 12.5%.


Earlier in the week it was reported that the number of non-EU nationals being granted employment permits is declining dramatically. The 2009 total of 7,942 was 41% lower than the 13,565 of 2008. The figure for 2007 was 23,604. India (1,782) topped the list of nationalities, followed by the Philippines (1,424) and the US (551).


The recession has also had a huge impact on the number of EU nationals coming to work here. The number of applications for PPS numbers from nationals of the 12 states which joined the EU since 2004 fell from 66,942 in 2008 to 29,421 in 2009. Most of this decline could be attributed to Poland; Polish applicants for PPS numbers fell from 42,553 to 13,794.








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Tributes have been paid to the former Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Cahal Daly who died on New Years Eve in Belfast aged 92.

He served as a bishop for almost three decades based first in Longford, then in Belfast and finally in Armagh. He became the hierarchy's foremost theologian and its most trenchant critic of politically-inspired violence. In 1996 when he turned 79, he resigned on age grounds and returned to writing and the study of philosophy.


As a child in North Antrim, Cahal Daly saw the IRA burn his home in an attack on police billeted next door. During the troubles, he emerged as Maynooth's most trenchant critic of politically-inspired violence. In 1979, he helped craft Pope John Paul's Drogheda appeal to the IRA to embrace peaceful methods.


Twenty years after ordination, the Queens University philosophy don became an advisor to the Second Vatican Council. At 50, he was made bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise.


He was promoted to his native Down and Connor shortly after the hunger strikes began boosting Sinn Fein's popularity.


Further promotion in 1990, to Armagh, saw the new Cardinal dogged by clerical child abuse scandals, beginning with the Fr Brendan Smyth case. He responded that he had approved an approach to the RUC by a diocesan social worker about the sole allegation he had received against Smyth. As the scandals multiplied, he said all Irish bishops were committed to immediately reporting allegations to the civil authorities. Months after guidelines to that effect were introduced, he resigned on age grounds.

He died believing that lasting peace was possible in Ireland.


The Taoiseach has described Cardinal Daly as a man of great intellect and humanity. Mr Cowen said: Cardinal Daly was a trenchant supporter of peace. He was a member of the New Ireland Forum and later the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. He was an outspoken critic of those who used violence to achieve political objectives'. He said the Cardinal had used his influence in every way he could to bring about a a peaceful solution in Northern Ireland.


The President Mary McAleese said Cardinal Daly had a long and distinguished career and will be fondly remembered by many people on this island. She went on to say that he had shown immense courage in his efforts to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Northern Ireland and was deeply committed to inter church relations. Mrs McAleese said he was an outstanding scholar and writer and maintained his academic interests right up to the time of his death.


Northern Ireland's First Deputy Martin McGuinness said it was no secret that during the Troubles, Republicans and Cardinal Daly never enjoyed a close relationship, but he had met him on numerous occasions in recent years, in 'friendly and warm encounters'. The Sinn Féin MP said it was with genuine sadness that he learnt of the Cardinal's death and extended his condolences to Cardinal Daly's family, friends and colleagues.


Tourism body Fáilte Ireland has said revenue from tourism last year fell to its lowest level since 2004.

But the organisation says those in the tourism sector are slightly more optimistic about the prospects for 2010.

Fáilte Ireland says tourism brought just over €5bn into the economy last year, a drop of almost 17% from the previous year and the lowest figure since 2004.

In a review of the industry, the body blamed the fall in revenue on difficult conditions in the important UK and US markets, as well as intense competition which drove accommodation prices down.

But a Fáilte Ireland survey of tourism businesses found that they were more optimistic about 2010, with almost two-thirds expecting business to be similar to or better than 2009.

This was up from 20% in a similar survey last year.

Fáilte Ireland's figures show that the number of people visiting Ireland fell by 12% last year, with the weakness of sterling hitting the British market particularly hard.

There was growth from some European markets, however, with Italy showing a 19% increase.


So come on what are ye waiting for-help Ireland today-go visit it!



Asking prices for homes fell by 19% during 2009 and are now 30% below their peak levels of early 2007. In its review of 2009, property website says the national average asking price for a house at the end of 2009 was €242,000, down more than €100,000 from the peak.'s report says the rate of decline in asking prices has varied across the country with the market battered by a crisis in confidence. Prices in Dublin are down 42% from their 2007 highs. In the surrounding counties and Cork, the decline from peak to now has been more than 30%. In Cork, Galway and Waterford cities asking prices are around 30% down on their 2007 peak. Limerick city & county have performed better with falls of  20%+.

The average time taken to sell a property is now nine months, though this has fallen to four months in Dublin where the number of homes for sale fell by 17%.

The stock of properties for sale nationally is 3% lower than a year ago, though says with 60,000 properties on the market, the number of people looking to sell remains high. 






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Ireland's national broadcaster announced on New Year's Eve the results of its Greatest Irish Sportsperson Ever poll.  35 sports stars were short-listed with users of RTE's website voting in the Fall. As with any poll the results sparked controversy. 


10. Paul McGrath (soccer)

'The Black Pearl of Inchicore' joined Man Utd in 1982 and won an FA Cup winners medal in 1985 before joining Aston Villa four years later. During his time at Villa Park, McGrath was voted PFA Player of the Year in 1993 and won the League Cup with Villa in 1994 beating Utd in the final. McGrath won 83 Republic of Ireland caps and starred in the Euro Championship in Germany in 1988 and even more memorably in Italia '90 and USA '94.


9. Vincent O'Brien (horse racing)

The 'Master of Ballydoyle' won four Cheltenham Gold Cups, three Grand Nationals and three Champion Hurdles before he turned his attention to flat racing in the 1950s. O'Brien was even more successful on the flat winning both the Irish Derby and the Epsom Derby six times each, among many other big race wins. O'Brien was voted the greatest figure in the history of horse-racing by the readers of the Racing Post in 2003.


8. Christy Ring (hurling)

Christy Ring is widely regarded as one of the greatest hurlers in the history of the game. His tally of eight senior All-Ireland medals was a record which stood for over a decade while Ring was captain of his county for three of those successes. In 1984, Christy was named in the right wing-forward position on the GAA 'Hurling Team of the Century' and was subsequently named on the GAA 'Hurling Team of the Millennium' in 2000. 


7. Sonia O'Sullivan (athletics)

The Cobh athlete dominated the world of middle distance running throughout the mid-1990s, winning silver (1,500m) and then gold (5,000m) at the World Championships' in 1993 and 1995 respectively. Sonia also became a double World Cross Country Champion in 1998 and while she did suffer more than her fair share of Olympic heartbreaks, at Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996), Sonia finally managed to get her hands on an Olympic silver medal (5,000m) in Sydney in 2000.


6. Sean Kelly (cycling)

Sean Kelly's remarkable cycling career saw him ranked No.1 when the FICP rankings were introduced in 1984, a position he held for a record six years. Kelly's victories included winning the prestigious Paris-Nice race a record seven times in succession, the Tour of Spain in 1988, the Green Jersey in the Tour de France a record four times, the Nissan Classic four times and many more titles before he retired in 1994.


5. Roy Keane (soccer)

Roy Keane left Cobh Ramblers to begin his career in England with Nottingham Forest before signing for Man Utd in 1993 where he soon became the most influential player in the team. During his 12 years at Old Trafford, Keane won seven Premiership titles, four FA cups, the Champions League and was voted Players Player of the Year & Football Writers Player of the Year in 2000. Keane played 66 times for Ireland and captained the team to qualification for the 2002 World Cup... enough said!

4. George Best (soccer)

Best was discovered in Belfast by Manchester United scout Bob Bishop, whose telegram to Matt Busby read: "I think I've found you a genius". In 1968, he was named European Footballer of the Year and scored a crucial goal in the European Cup Final against Benfica as United became the first English Club to lift the trophy. After George left United in 1974, he became something of a footballing nomad but despite his personal problems, he remains one of the greatest players to have played the game.

3. Joey Dunlop (motorcycling)

Best known for road racing, Joey Dunlop was voted the fifth greatest motorcycling icon ever by Motorcycle News in 2005. His achievements include three hat-tricks at the Isle of Man TT (1985, 1988 and 2000) where he won a record 26 races in total. During his career he won the Ulster Grand Prix 24 times and six consecutive TT Formula One world titles. 

2. Brian O'Driscoll (rugby)

O'Driscoll has led Ireland to three Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and finally to the Grand Slam in 2009 where he was named player of the Six Nation's Championship. O'Driscoll has scored more tries for Ireland that any other player during the course of his 93 international caps. He has toured three times with the British & Irish Lions, including once as captain, and helped Leinster claim the Heineken Cup for the first time in their history in 2009.


1. Padraig Harrington (golf)

Padraig's big breakthrough came in 2006 when he won the European Order of Merit. He used this success as a springboard to winning the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2007 - becoming the first Irishman to win the trophy in 60 years. In 2008, Padraig went one better by successfully defending his Open Championship and then adding the USPGA Championship three weeks later. Padraig has also played in 5 Ryder Cups and been on the winning side three times. 

For better or worse - here's the list in reverse order (the also-ran's are listed at the bottom).


Kevin Heffernan (gaelic football), Mick O'Dwyer (gaelic football), Jack O'Shea (gaelic football), Mick O'Connell (gaelic football)

Eamonn Coghlan (athletics), Ronnie Delany (athletics), John Treacy (athletics), Mary Peters (athletics)

DJ Carey (hurling), Henry Shefflin (hurling)
Ken Doherty (snooker), Alex Higgins (snooker)
Mike Gibson (rugby), Jack Kyle (rugby)
Tony McCoy (horse racing), Aidan O'Brien (horse racing)

John Giles (soccer)
Eddie Macken (show jumping)
Barry McGuigan (boxing)
Christy O'Connor Snr (golf)
Stephen Roche (cycling)
Michelle Smith de Bruin (swimming)


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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Saturday, January 16

The All Ireland Athletic Association presents Andy Cooney And His Band at the East Pittsburgh VFW @ 7pm-11PM. Tickets available by contacting or phoning 412-367-0696


The Map Room on Braddock Avenue in Regents Square presents 'Island Night' featuring the fabulous and incredible Guaranteed Irish - donations can be made on the night to the Haitian Tsunami Relief Effort. Fun kicks off at 9PM.


Saturday, February 6th


The Pittsburgh Ceili Club will host their monthly Ceili at the Morningside VFW.  They are also having a 'Used Book Sale', you are welcome to bring some along. For more information contact 412-363-8686


Saturday, February 13


The Harp & Fiddle presents 'The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival'. For more information contact 412-642-6622

Tuesday, February 23


The LAOH Div 11, Pittsburgh Celtics & Pittsburgh Banshees present The Wolfe Tones, all the way from Ireland. 7PM Finnegan's Wake on the Northside. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by logging onto or phoning 412-478-2799.



Pittsburgh Irish Dance Schools

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    Pittsburgh Irish Reelers

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    Pittsburgh Ceili Club


Pittsburgh Irish Sports

Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club (PIRC)

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    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





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Cue Ball Music

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Terry Griffith 

Guaranteed Irish    -

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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.

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