Read about the Lisbon Treaty!


The Common Ground

Vol. VI, Issue 6


      June 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 to during the first week of each month.  Diverse cultural, political, and religious views are appreciated, but publication of any piece is subject to approval by the Ireland Institute Executive Management.







letter from the editor 


Last week voters in the Republic of Ireland rejected a proposal to create a more efficient, more democratic administration of trans-European affairs, sending shock waves across the continent and around the world.  Political pundits, columnists and others who supported the Lisbon Treaty spent the last week characterizing Ireland's electorate as stupid, selfish, paranoid, and irresponsible.

The Lisbon Treaty contains most of the reforms, which were included in the EU Constitutional Treaty, aiming to improve the procedures for the functioning of the Union institutions.  It provides for reducing the number of EU Commissioners from 27 to 18; for increasing the range of decisions to be taken with qualified majority voting in the Council as opposed to unanimity; for reducing the number of Members of the European Parliament; and for establishing the position of an EU President.  The reforms will serve to enable the EU to react more quickly and adequately to global issues of security, energy, migration, and climate change; and strengthen the EU's enforcement of equality and human rights.   

Supporters of the Lisbon Treaty suggest that a united Europe is a stronger Europe, better able to provide services to its citizens and compete economically and otherwise, with traditional and emerging world powers.

I believe anyone who reads the general terms of the Lisbon Treaty would agree with them.  Themes supporting each member state's national identity are carefully textured with cooperative and inclusive relationships, hinting at an ideal society of diversity and unity.  So why did the Irish say 'No'?

First, Ireland was the only nation of the 27 participating member states of the European Community required by its own constitution to put this decision directly to the people.  No other member state offered its constituents the opportunity to vote for or against the treaty.  So far 18 governments have ratified the Lisbon treaty.  Would the result have been the same if put to a referendum in those countries?

Second, the presentation of this treaty to the voters was overwhelming.  Several members of the Irish parliament who supported this treaty openly admitted they never read it.  How did they expect the general public to read, understand, analyze, and ultimately approve a 300-page document full of legal terms and clauses not easily interpreted by ordinary citizens?


So while opposition to the treaty was taking shape, treaty supporters found themselves on the defensive, unable to explain the broad terms of a great idea to farmers worried about their declining industry, to nationalists reluctant to bow to European governance, to investors fearing the dissolution of Ireland's attractive corporate tax rate, and to the people of Ireland, knowing this treaty would see a reduction of Irish representation and influence in Brussels.


As opposition to this treaty strengthened leading up to last week's vote, Irish government officials, who led the pro-treaty charge, became distracted with the final farewells of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the attention that brought to Ireland. 


Pro-treaty supporters from Ireland and across Europe failed to plan properly.  They could not defend their position adequately, and they gave up.  Come now, members of the press, who are we calling "stupid"?  Who is really responsible for the Irish 'No' vote? 


I still believe there is a better future for Ireland and for Europe.  Proponents for a stronger union would be wise to acknowledge that true democratic government is of the people, for the people, and by the people.  Insist that every state hold a referendum.  But before you do that, draft something that will pass now.  Table your other lofty ideals for future referendums.   


And as for those "learned men who use the pen" to deride a nation of voters, look closer at what happened here. 

Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh

Jim’s sources for this article:




The Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, is pleased to host the Seventeenth Ulster-American Heritage Symposium, 25-28 June, 2008, in partnership with the University of Ulster, Queen's University Belfast, the National Museums, the Library Service of Northern Ireland and the Ulster Historical Foundation.


Since 1976 the Ulster-American Heritage Symposium has met every two years, alternating between co-sponsoring universities and museums in Ulster and North America. Its purpose is to encourage scholarly study and public awareness of the historical connections between Ulster and North America including what is commonly called the Scotch-Irish or Ulster-Scots heritage. 

The particular theme of the meeting in 2008 will be 'Changing Perspectives, 1607-2007' with the aim of presenting and exploring recent research that challenges habitual ways of thinking about the historical relationship between Ulster and North America over the last four hundred years.

Pittsburgh's own Peter Gilmore, a retired journalist and doctoral student at CMU, will be presenting his paper "When Pittsburgh's 'Scotch-Irish' Were 'Irish'".  It details the first wave of migrants from Ireland to the US - Ulster Presbyterians of Scottish ancestry.  Many came because of restrictions placed on Presbyterians in the 1700s - they were not allowed to perform baptisms or weddings.  Until the later arrival of many Irish Catholics,  the Scots-Irish in America referred to themselves simply as "Irish."

For more information about the Symposium and the Ulster American Folk Park, visit their website at

To read more about Peter Gilmore and his research, go to



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Members of the Assembly at Stormont welcomed the new First Minister Peter Robinson while paying tribute to retiring First Minister Ian Paisley.  Rev. Paisley, as the DUP nominating officer, put forward Mr. Robinson as his party’s nominee for First Minister.  Nigel Dodds was selected as the DUP deputy leader.  Martin McGuinness remained Deputy First Minister for Sinn Féin. 


Though difficult policy issues, such as the devolution of justice and policing, education reform, and an Irish Language Act threatened the stability of the government, Irish and British diplomats, including the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister, were able to work with the parties to reach a solution.  Talks between First Minister Robinson, Deputy First Minister McGuinness and Prime Minister Brown will continue to develop a mechanism for settling such conflicts in the future.


Failure to address concerns brought up by the United Nations Human Rights Committee 8 years ago is like to bring strong criticism on the Irish government.  Among the concerns are the physical conditions in many prisons, as well as a lack of social rehabilitation programs and separation for juvenile offenders.  The Travellers, groups of nomadic people in Ireland, Great Britain, and North America, should be recognized as an ethnic minority, it contends. 

Government representatives are due to defend Ireland’s record on human rights when they address an oral hearing of the UN human rights committee in Geneva on July 14-15.  Other areas to be questioned include gap’s in women’s protection from domestic violence, Irish abortion laws, and the possible use of Irish airports for rendition.  IHRC president Dr Maurice Manning said yesterday that the commission’s report had highlighted a number of areas where there was poor compliance by Ireland in meeting its obligations under the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  “Not enough action has been taken by the Irish Government to address a number of concerns in relation to detention, and due process rights, as well as the rights of women, Travellers, immigrants and same-sex couples,” he said. 


Ireland was the only nation to hold a public referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which will create new regulations in the EU.  Other states ratified the treaty in their governments.  The debate over the treaty was fierce in Ireland, with the 'No' faction claiming that it would negatively affect the economy through higher taxes and strip the right to veto international trade agreements.  Others worried about conscription and changes to abortion laws.  The government, on the other hand, which supported a yes vote, said that the No campaign was spreading false information and that ratification of the treaty was essential to economic health.


One of the reasons that a No vote prevailed, experts say, is because the No campaign got off the ground so much sooner than the government Yes campaign.  Others felt that the government did a poor job in getting the correct information out to the public.  The recent change in leadership did not help matters. 


The current form of the Lisbon Treaty was "Plan B,"  so what will happen remains to be seen.  Many are hoping that the document will be sent back to Brussels for modifications.  At the moment, however, 18 of the 26 member states have ratified the Treaty and the rest are expected to do so. 


Spurred by rising fuel prices and catch quotas they say are ruining their livelihood, fishermen blockaded harbors at Cork and Waterford, keeping shipping from going in or out for two days beginning June 10.  They especially balked at stiff fishing regulations, which they said forced them to throw back valuable catches, while the same types of fish was being imported from other countries. 

Fishermen agreed to suspend the blockade and entered talks with government officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but warned that they would blockade again if their demands were not met.  The Irish Association of Seafood Companies and the Federation of Fishermen criticized the action, which was organized by ad hoc groups, calling it unhelpful and showing “an industry fighting with itself.”

The fishermen want the Government to recognize that 60,000 people in coastal areas depend on the fishing industry for their economic survival.  The current policies and abundance of enforcement officers make them feel like criminals, rather than people trying to support their families and communities.










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In one of the most dangerous areas of town, Belfast’s dark monument of troubled times is being opened to the public.  The Crumlin Road Prison, where four current Northern Ireland ministers, as well as Reverend Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams, did time, will now host tours of its death row, including the gallows and hangman’s equipment and fifteen unmarked graves of men who were hanged there.  

Rather than as a grim curiosity, the opening of the prison may help foster a sense of coexistence.  Though both loyalist and republican paramilitaries came from the deprived areas around the jail and clashes were frequent both inside and out, it is viewed by both sides as a kind of shared space.  Hundreds from both sides were held in those walls, which served as a prison for 150 years, closing in 1996. 

 The repurposing of the jail site into a museum is part of the plan to revive the whole area.  Together with a former army base adjoining the jail, the site takes up about 27 acres. The regeneration will encompass workspace, shops, leisure facilities and varying types of accommodation for families, singles and the elderly.  What remains to be seen is whether the bitter past can be left behind for a better future.


Tom Roche, founder of the charity Just Forests and furniture maker from Rhode, Co Offaly, has gone on a hunger strike to attention to a need for a national policy on timber purchasing.  Much of the wood brought into the country for construction, he says, is brought from Africa, South America and other developing regions, where forests are disappearing due to bad management and corruption, leaving local people destitute.  The Offaly County Council was the first local authority to adopt a policy of using timber certified as ethically sourced in its construction projects seven years ago.  Mr. Roche argues that the council has not done enough to live up to its pledge.


Mr. Roche received praise in 2002 from Brian Cowen, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he launched the Good Wood Guide, published by Just Forests.  Earlier this year Mr Cowen also sought answers on Mr Roche’s behalf about the source of timber used in hoardings during the construction of the new Irish Aid headquarters in Dublin. The Office of Public Works replied that the timber came from China but it had not been possible to identify the company or sawmill involved.  Despite his supporters in high places, he claims that not enough has been done to make sure lumber is ethically sourced.


Sean Murray, Offaly County Council director of services, said the council was very conscious of the need to verify the sources of timber used in public building projects but practical considerations had to be taken into account.  “The use of the word ‘only’ in the sense that we should only use certain timber is overly restrictive. We have a policy of utilizing timber from sustainable sources insofar as is practical,” he said. 


Revelers came in to Cork’s Fitzgerald Park holding their sides with laughter after passing the “normality test” administered by clowns with rubber chickens.  The event was designed to provide a chance for those recovering from mental illness to interact with the community and for the community to gain more understanding of the issue.

Mental health campaigner and event organizer John McCarthy, shown above, said he was overwhelmed by the turnout of about 5,000 people.  “It’s a very emotional day for me,” he said, “The citizens of Cork have turned out to embrace mad people and say we love you.  I’ve seen people walking around here today who live in isolation, who are shunned because of mental illness or depression.  But they are being hugged today, they’re laughing. There is a sense of hope here today, and a sense of future change.”  Mr. McCarthy said he hoped the day would not alone encourage people with mental illness to find solidarity within their community, but also prompt wider society to do more to help people recovering from such illnesses. 


The free family fun day featured clowns, face painters, street theatre, live music and a food fair.  Similar Mad Pride days have been held in the UK, Canada, the US, and across Europe. 


Plans are being considered to reopen waterways from the Bann to the Shannon, renewing an aquatic highway that once was vital to shipping within the island.  In a time before trains or other mechanized land transportation, when roads were often little better than muddy ruts, canal boats carried goods and people throughout the island.


Though the canal and lock system fell out of prominence and into disrepair, some local administrations in the north and south are taking steps to restore them. Following the lead of the Norfolk Broads in England, the Shannon-Erne Waterway, which reopened more than a decade ago, has been a significant success story in this regard. Boat holidays had become independent ventures on Lough Erne in Fermanagh and on the Shannon River in the Republic. Restoration of the canal linking the two waterways did more than double the tourist potential by turning isolated and relatively small holiday opportunities into one major scheme.


A proposal was recently revealed in Enniskillen to reopen waterways linking the Irish Sea to Lough Neagh, along with the key Ulster Canal bringing Lough Neagh to Lough Erne and from there on to the Shannon and the network in the south. Upon completion, it would be possible to cruise from Coleraine to Waterford. With the rise of fuel prices affecting land and air transportation, a river and canal cruise may be the new holiday of choice.






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Despite being ranked 43rd in the third-tier Hooters Tour in the US and going through open heart surgery in 2006, Chris Devlin will tee off in the 108th US Open.  The 33 year-old father of two will be taking on all the golf greats, including Tiger Woods.  The Ballymena man, who now lives in Alabama, will be the only Northern Irish competitor at Torrey Pines in San Diego.  

 Family and friends in Ballymena are cheering for him.  Freddie Dawson, who runs the pro-shop at Ballymena Golf Club said everyone was rooting for him and hoped he would make it to the last two days.  "There is real pride at what he has achieved," he said.

WIDER HORIZONS 2008 - Host FaMily Program

The 58th group of Wider Horizons participants departed on May 15th.  They had a great program and enjoyed their stay in Pittsburgh.  Many thanks to their host families!  The next group from the Tyrone-Donegal Partnership is due to arrive July 21st.  Another group, our 60th, from the Monaghan-Portadown Partnership will be arriving on July 24th.  It will be a busy summer here at the IIP!

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, or know someone who may be interested, please contact Robert Tierney at or phone (412) 4394-3900.

















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Our Mission:


Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre – '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.

Saturday, June 21

Bridgewater Bookfest from 9:00AM to 5:00 PM; a celebration of books and writing with 40 talented authors. There will be a day-long schedule of speakers and presenters; for the children there will be fun activities, crafts and mini-stage with entertainment. Bridgewater, PA.

Sunday, June 22

Gaelic Football -- Pittsburgh Celtics host Detroit Wolfe Tones at Anderson Field in Shaler. Micheal MacDonncha Email:

Thursday, June 26
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is presenting the Community Partners Concert with Issac Hayes, 8:00 PM at Heinz Hall. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is one of 50 non-profit group to benefit. The Food Bank’s number is 6656, which must be used when purchasing tickets. or call 412.392.4900.

Saturday, June 28

AOH Division 4, North Hills presents “A Day of Irish Entertainment” with Aran, a traditional group out of Johnstown PA., Jack Puskar singing favorite ballads and other songs, Irish Dancing and ‘Joe the Juggler’ at The Croatian Center on Schitzen Park Road, off Babcock Boulevard, Ross Township in Millvale. Beginning at 12:00 Noon, Admission $10.00 per person; children under 16, accompanied by and Adult, admitted FREE.  Food and Beverages available for purchase.  Information: Stephen Kurpiewski  412.734.9648.

Saturday, July 12

The Green City Music Festival at Mellon Park, sponsored by Calliope with Hooley, Rolling Scones and many other acts. Information 412.361.1915.


become a regular at these local programs!

 The Echoes of Erin is marking its 21st year!  It airs every Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.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 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

Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club 2008 Schedule

Philadelphia - June 21

Pittsburgh - July 12
Columbus –July 26

Milwakee - August 16

Boston – August 31

Albany – September 13

Annapolis – October 4

For more information contact:

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.