Read about Brian Cowen, the new Taoiseach!


The Common Ground

Vol. VI, Issue 5


      May 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 




A new chapter in Ireland’s long history is unfolding in front of us.  Just one year after winning the peace with a return to devolved government at Stormont, First Minister Ian Paisley is retiring.  Meanwhile, Taioseach Bertie Ahern, who presided over Ireland’s awesome economic growth, is calling it quits.


One would think that such changes might be enough to bring significant anxiety to this small, complicated, highly developed island.  But wait… there’s more.


Two other nations that are inextricably linked to Ireland  - Great Britain and the United States – also face transitions in leadership.  While new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown looks to make his mark at home and on the world stage, America has a big decision this fall.

As you try to digest the politics and possibilities of new leadership in Ireland, north and south, and its partners, save room for the recent global financial strains, outsourcing, labor disputes, immigration, school reform, health reform, and climate change. All of these will have a profound impact on Ireland's future.

The next generation of leaders have a lot to think about and a lot to do, and so do we. The people of Ireland, the Diaspora, and others who cherish our history, our culture, and our contributions to the world are blessed with talent in business, politics, science and research, education, philanthropy, community development, the arts, and the clergy.

How will the new leaders fare in Ireland, the UK, and the US? What will their contributions be to peace and prosperity? No one knows.

But what will your contribution be? Here's the challenge. Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University Professor diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, told this year's graduates that his greatest regrets in a life cut short involved, not the things that he did, but the things that he didn't get around to doing.

What issue affecting Ireland and its diaspora will you regret not pursuing? Preserving Irish culture? Enhancing the US-Ireland relationship in terms of business or community development? Connecting with extended family? Pick one. Or formulate your own. Then act and have no regrets.

The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh is your resource for connecting with Ireland. Please contact us at (412) 394-3900 to discuss your ideas and opportunities for collaboration on issues of mutual interest.

Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh




Come and visit us at our new office space in Suite 1410 of the Regional Enterprise Tower.  Our fax, phone, and email remain the same, but if you send us mail, be sure to use this address:


Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh

425 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1410

Pittsburgh, PA 15219



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Brian Cowen entered politics after the death of his father, Clara publican Bernard Cowen, in 1984.  His father had been a Fianna Fáil TD and Senator, and Brian, at 24, became the youngest member of the 24th Dáil when he succeeded him in a bye-election in Laois-Offaly.

A backbencher for the early years of his political career, Mr. Cowen was appointed Minister for Labour under Albert Reynolds in 1992.  Over the following years he served as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications and Minister for Health and Children - a post he famously regarded as being like 'Angola' because of the political landmines he encountered.

In 2000 he found himself at the heart of Northern Ireland devolution negotiations as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Minister for Finance in 2004.  Re-elected to Dáil Éireann in May 2007, he was appointed Tánaiste and retained his position as Minister for Finance.

Described by fellow minister Dick Roche as 'without doubt the brightest mind in Dáil Éireann', Brian Cowen was elected unopposed as the seventh leader of Fianna Fáil on 9 April.  On 7 May, Mr Cowen was confirmed as the State's 12th Taoiseach after a vote in Dáil Eireann.

The 48-year-old is married with two children, Sinead and Maedhbh. A keen Gaelic football fan, he continues to be president of Clara GAA club.


The EU and the US launched the second round of 'open skies' talks today which could increase routes and lower prices for transatlantic flights, or even the world's first global airline.  This new round builds on an agreement that allows airlines to access any US city from any point in the EU and vice versa and which entered force in March.  It eliminated the need for some airlines to stopover at Shannon airport.

European airlines also want greater access to the US domestic market with the right to sell tickets for flights between US cities.  The United States surprised EU negotiators on Tuesday by saying it would seek a wider deal by pledging to drop access restrictions for airlines from more than 60 nations.  Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has hinted in the past that he might develop a spin-off airline that would offer transatlantic fares for as little as $12 (€8).


President Bush is making good on an invitation extended to him last December by First and Deputy First Ministers Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.  George Bush will be visiting Belfast in June, allegedly to put his seal of approval on the devolved government.  His visit also follows the US investment conference which involved 80 American firms earlier this month.

The US President is due to meet incoming First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

President Bush leaves on a seven-day European tour including the UK, Germany, France and Italy on June 9 and is expected in Belfast around June 16. 

George Bush backed the final implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on a previous visit to Hillsborough in 2003, where he met Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Up to 400 people staged an anti-war protest outside Belfast City Hall to coincide with his visit.



Representatives from 130 countries met at Croke Park in Dublin on Monday at the start of a two-week conference with the goal of banning cluster bombs.  It is the largest international conference of its kind ever hosted by Ireland.  If the ban is agreed, campaigners say, the main manufacturers and stockpilers of the munitions will be forced to accept it.

Movements to ban the use, manufacture, and trade of the bombs have gained increasing support as more people become aware of the dangers of the weapons – after opening in midair, dozens of tiny bombsare scattered over a large area.  Some can linger, posing danger to civilians years after a conflict ends.

The weapons' main producers and stockpilers - including the United States, Russia and China - are against any such treaty move and are not represented at the conference.  Simon Conway of the campaigning group, Landmine Action, said he believed such countries would have to accept a ban.










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Dustin the Turkey, who came on the media scene in the 1990s with the RTE kid's show The Den, took a foray into the international music arena this year in the Eurovision song contest.  After winning the Irish final, Dustin went on to the semi-finals in Belgrade. He made international news last Saturday for his raucous party at the Three Carrots Irish Pub in the Serbian capital. Unfortunately he was eliminated Tuesday despite his energetic rendition of "Irelande Douze Pointe."

Dustin has enjoyed considerable chart success in Ireland and has released six albums and twelve singles. He’s had numerous number ones and has sung with Bob Geldof, Chris De Burgh, Boyzone and Irish Showband legend Joe Dolan to name a few and has had Irish sales in excess of 25 times platinum.  Not one to rest on his feathers, he has also dabbled in the political arena and has run mock campaigns for a number of Irish presidential elections as a representative of ‘Fianna Fowl’ and also of the 'Poultry Party'.

He currently presents The Once A Week Show with Sinéad Ní Churnáin on Saturday mornings on RTÉ Two television.



The new Foreign Minister Micheál Martin opened a series of events celebrating African culture as a lead-up to Africa Day on May 25. Representatives of African communities in Ireland joined him at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre in Dublin.  Irish Aid is supporting 58 cultural, sporting and academic events in 21 counties across the island and the Africa Day festival will take place in the gardens of Dublin Castle on Sunday May 25.  The main stage line up for this event will feature Irish and African entertainers including Mundy, Sinéad O Connor, Republic of Loose with The Discovery Gospel Choir, Motema, Gardiner Street Gospel Choir and Congomania.

Major events are taking place in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick and most are free for the public.  Next weekend, prominent Dublin City buildings will host light displays highlighting the lives of Africans in Ireland.

'This is a great opportunity for us to look again at Africa and our perceptions of the continent', Minister Martin. 'Irish Aid is proud to support events marking Africa Day in Ireland. Over 80% of Ireland's aid supports development in Africa.'


Around one million euro has been stolen from 300 bank accounts in one of the largest incidents of bankcard fraud ever in Ireland.  The bankcards were cash registers in shops and restaurants around Dublin in the last few weeks.

The criminals are thought to have paid cashiers and restaurant workers up to 10,000 euro to skim cards, while the criminals would look over the customers’ shoulders to find out their pin numbers, known as “shoulder surfing.”  The criminals withdrew cash from the unsuspecting victims in countries around mainland Europe, including Italy, Romania and Spain.  The largest single amount stolen from one account was 7,800 euro.

Most of the withdrawals took place at the end of April and in early May, and many of the customers contacted their banks themselves to notify them of the irregularities because the banks fraud detection systems failed to pick up on the activity.  "These people were obviously working for a number of days before they were detected," said a spokeswoman for the Irish Payment Services Organization (IPSO).  "A member of a criminal gang would hire someone working in a shop or restaurant. They would be offered maybe up to 10,000 euro to get card numbers. And if they have any type of criminal instincts they take the money. "


A group of students from St Joseph's College in Lucan, Co Dublin made it to the final five in the Planet SciCast awards, a competition to depict practical science on video, which took place in London in late April.  This was the first year of the competition.  The competition was open to schools across Ireland and the UK, with 90 entrants in the physics category.  Science students and teachers were invited to make a short film of a science experiment.  The students from Lucan explained the central locking mechanism in cars.







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Californian criterium specialist Ken Hanson used his sprinting speed to triumph on Sunday's opening leg of the FBD Insurance Rás, winning a big bunch gallop into Ballinamore and taking the first yellow jersey of the race.  Hanson, whose grandmother is from Leitrim, had long had an interest in taking part in the event.  While he normally competes with the US pro BMC Racing outfit, he was able to get a guest slot with the Isle of Man Microgaming Dolan team for the eight day tour.

He rewarded that team's faith by beating Dutchman Patrick Kos, Belgian Benny de Schrooder and the rest of the bunch in the slightly uphill sprint to the line.  Mark Nestor (Pezula Racing), Scott McDonald (Meath Cycleways@53degreesnorth) and Paídi O'Brien (Ireland An Post M.Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) were best of the home riders, finishing sixth, seventh and tenth respectively.

The mainly flat 142 kilometre stage was run off in mild, bright conditions and was marked by a number of breakaways.  The most significant of these was sparked off just before Ballyjamesduff, 51 kilometres into the stage, when Irishman Eugene Moriarty (Meath/ BDBC) and Tim van der Zanden (Netherlands) attacked.

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.

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 – '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, May 30

AOH County Celtic Open Scramble at South Park golf course, $85.00 per person includes greens fees, cart, doughnuts and coffee before the start, lunch at the turn, and dinner afterwards, shotgun start at 8:00 a.m.  Information Denny Donnelly 412-276-9312.  Deadline for registration is May 24.

Sunday, June 1

Gaelic Storm in Concert at the John Murtha Amphitheater, Kittanning Riverfront Park.  FREE and open to the public, sponsored by Arts on the Allegheny,  Information 724-543-2091.

Saturday, June 7

The Pittsburgh Celtics and Banshees Football Clubs are sponsoring an ‘Annual local Seven-a-Side Tournament’ at Founder’s Field off Route 910, Indianola.  It is a grand day for everyone!  Website:

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.

become a regular at these local programs!

 Listen to Echoes of Erin, now in its 20th year, every Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. on WEDO, 810 AM.  Diane Byrnes has Irish music, news, and other great information.  Congratulations on a great 20 years, 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.