Read about new developments in Belfast!


The Common Ground

Vol. VI, Issue 10


      October 2008





For the next few months, we will be concentrating on different cities throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  This month's issue will feature news stories from the city of Belfast. Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and houses one third of the country's population.  








letter from the editor 


(Left: Michelle Gildernew, NI Minister of Agriculture, Center: Terry Cross, CEO of Delta Print Packaging,          Right: Jim Lamb, President of IIP)

"You'd be lost," she says, typically, when I ask my wife where I would be without her. I have no doubt she is right. The capacity of women in general to endure pain, provide and care for others, multi-task, manage, and lead is beyond my grasp. Over the past century women have gradually been able to express those qualities and talents, in spite of men's' intentions to "keep them in their place." That was a fight worth losing. The world is a better place thanks to the contributions of great women.

Northern Ireland's new government is dominated by men. But there are some amazing women doing terrific things at the highest levels. Four ministers, in particular bear this out. Arlene Foster, Minister of Trade and Investment, oversees the economic development of Northern Ireland. As I write, Ms. Foster is leading a trade mission to San Francisco. Supporting Northern Ireland companies and attracting inward investment, Ms. Foster holds an important role in the new Northern Ireland.

Michele Gildernew, Minister of Agriculture, works to promote Northern Ireland's Agriculture industry and assist farmers, food retailers, and consumers to ensure the safety and availability of Northern Ireland's food supply. I met Minister Gildernew during my recent visit to Belfast.

Margaret Ritchie, Minister of Social Development is tasked with reaching out to the region's most disadvantaged communities. Using the resources of government, churches, community organizations, and companies, Ms. Ritchie has to set an agenda to revitalize Northern Ireland's hardest areas.

Catriona Ruane, Minister of Education, manages the entire primary and secondary level learning activities of Northern Ireland's young people. As we enter the 21st century, Dr. Ruane should recognize the values of traditional education, which earned Northern Ireland an excellent reputation, and new learning models that will enhance its standing among
regions across Europe and around the world.

Three women from three very different backgrounds, each belonging to different, often opposed political parties, have emerged to take on Northern Ireland's current and future challenges. In a world still dominated by men, these women have insisted that they be heard. Their voices are long overdue.

Next year, the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh will celebrate it's 20th year of operation. The Institute was founded and run by another amazing woman. Sr. Michele O'Leary, who passed away three years ago, is one of several women who continue to remind me with their actions, what my wife knows all to well. Men would be lost without them

Jim Lamb, President

Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh








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Tourism Ireland hosted its third annual internet tourism conference for the first time in Northern Ireland.  The conference was held in the city of Belfast.  This is a great opportunity for Northern Ireland tourism industries to learn more about using newer technologies to help their businesses.


The Tourism Ireland discussed new developments in the world of eMarketing and how these affect the tourism industry and international web strategy.  Tips were also provided on how to harness the power of social media sites.


Mark Henry, Tourism Ireland’s Director of Central Marketing, said, “We are delighted to hold our eSymposium in Northern Ireland for the first time. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to work with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to grow business."  He also said, "Tourism Ireland is committed to using eMarketing to the best possible effect in promoting Northern Ireland as a holiday destination.”


The use of the internet an online marketing tactics are key factors in competing with other companies.  The internet makes things quicker and easier for visitors to request information about holidays on the island of Ireland.




The movie City of Ember, produced by Tom Hanks, stars Bill Murray and Tim Robbins.  The  European premiere for the movie was held in Belfast at the Movie House Cinemas on the Dublin Road on October 9, 2008.  The movie was released in theaters on October 10.

The premiere was secured by the Northern Ireland Screen in partnership with Entertainment Film Distributors and Cinemagic. Richard Williams, chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen, said, “Northern Ireland Screen fought long and hard to bring the production of City of Ember to Northern Ireland, supporting it with production funding and facilitating its massive set build in the Paint Hall."

The movie was filmed in the Paint Hall in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter last year.  It was transformed into a multi-million pound movie set — representing the underground city of Ember.  The plot of the story is centered around two children, played by Atonement star Saoirse Ronan, and Harry Treadaway, who are in a race against time to save their city before the lights go out forever and it is plunged into darkness.





A change in times call for a change in image.  A renewal process is beginning for the city of Belfast that will help them move on into the future, leaving behind past conflicts.


Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie has acquired a £7m renewal fund.  This money will go towards 17 projects being produced throughout the city.  More than 80 contracts are set to be in place this week with voluntary and community sector organizations.  


Some of the projects include These include the Lenadoon Women's Group and the Donegall Pass Training, Education and Employment program.



Queen Elizabeth II sailed into the city of Belfast as part of its year-long final tour, and the public got a chance to admire it.  The vessel traveled to Belfast from Liverpool for a brief visit prior to being retired in the oil-rich state of Dubai where it will be converted into a floating hotel later this year.

Lord Mayor Tom Hartley said, “It is a sign of the outstanding reputation that Belfast has garnered as a cruise and tourist destination that such a prestigious ship made time to include the city on its itinerary.”

She was the first British liner to offer en suite facilities in every cabin, high restaurants guaranteeing panoramic ocean views and was the most efficient twin-screw ship ever built.  Also, QE II was used to transport troops during the Falklands War.

The QE II was the flagship of the Cunard Line for more than 30 years. She made her maiden voyage in 1969 and is considered one of the greatest Transatlantic liners of all time as well as one of the fastest and largest passenger ships ever produced.











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On Thursday, October 9th, the Ulster Orchestra returned to the University of Ulster Coleraine campus for its annual Autumn Concert.  The concert opens with Brahms Academic Festival Overture, and the program will contain many classic melodies.  

Unfortunately, the concert was not conducted by the Orchestra’s Conductor Laureate Vernon Handley who died recently. Vernon Hanley was the Ulster Orchestra’s Principal Conductor from 1985 to 1989, and he also made many CD recordings with the orchestra.  Vernon will sadly be missed.  

Kenneth Montgomery, the Ulster Orchestra’s Principal Conductor and formerly its Principal Guest Conductor  carried out the concert performance.  He is well-known internationally for his work as a guest conductor throughout Europe and North America.  


Once a building of ruins and neglect in the Belfast city center, the former bank building has  been transformed into a luxury.  It is now a 171-bed Premier Inn hotel with a 200-seating capacity restaurant and bar.  This restoration will create 75 full and part time jobs.  

Minister for Social Development, Margaret Ritchie said, "The Premier Inn 171-bedroom hotel and restaurant will renew Cathedral Quarter and the wider city center.  This addition will give people a new place to spend time, and it will attract more visitors."

This project is another step that Belfast, and Northern Ireland, are taking in order to change tourism throughout their area, and now is a good time to start. The building is significant in telling Belfast's history.  



There's a new face in the crowd for the city of Belfast. Dan George, of Brooklyn, is the artist who was commissioned to create a stainless steel sculpture for the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland.  With the help of Utica-based Gauthier Fabricators, a local business, he was able to complete the project.

George's design was inspired by the culture features of Northern Ireland  The sculpture contains 20 feet of metal with one complete ring along with several other steel arcs.  

The sculpture is one of many projects to be commissioned for the Northern Ireland Department of Social Development’s program.  The name of the program is “Belfast: Streets Ahead.”  The goal of the program is to renew public spaces within the city.  Since the conflicts in Northern Ireland are coming to an end, now is the perfect time build a new face.  


Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NTIB) has committed partnership funding of up to £717,500 a year for three years to Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau (BVCB). NTIB is one of many private and public sector partners that will help contribute to the overall fund.

The target for Northern Ireland's tourism industry is to bring in more visitors and increase visitor's spending.  Their approximate goals is a 25 percent increase in the number of visitors and a 40 percent increase in the spending.  

Alan Clarke, chief executive of NITB, said, "Over the next three years, BVCB will be working in partnership with NITB to deliver a step change in tourism across Belfast and Northern Ireland, while strengthening the role of the private sector to take the lead in the future.”






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Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh has been named as Ireland captain for this year's International Rules series in Australia. This will be his fourth time participating in the Test Series.  Cavanagh helped Tyrone to their third All-Ireland Football victory in September.  He was considered a key player in their win against Kerry.  Ireland manager Seán Boylan said,"He is an excellent communicator and leads by example on the field."  They are thrilled to have him on the Ireland team.  

Cork's Graham Canty will act as vice-captain for the two-Test series.  This will be his fourth time to Australia.  Sean Boylan said, "Graham is a natural leader."  Canty is considered one of the best gaelic football defenders.

Ireland will play Australia in two Tests at the Subiaco Stadium in Perth on 24 October and at the MCG on 31 October.


There's no greater support for gaelic football teams than the screams of cheering fans.  Tyrone fans filled the streets throught Aughnacloy and Omagh to applaud their team's victory over Kerry.  As they held the Sam Maguire Trophy high above their heads, fans roared in excitement.  

Just like the Pittsburgh Steelers raising their helmets to loyal fans after football games, the Tyrone Red Hands tipped their hats to their supporters in the streets.  Team captain Brian Dooher addressed the crowd and thanked them for the tremendous support of fans.  "On behalf of this Tyrone team I would like to thank you for all your support throughout the year," said Dooher.  

This is Tyrone's third Sam Maguire Trophy in the past six years.

















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Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre Eigth Annual Fall Gala 2008.  It will be held at the LeMont Restaurant from       7-10 P.M. on November 6, 2008.  Visit their website at or contact Gale McGloin at 412-561-6000 x204 or


Saturday, October 18

14th Annual ‘Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome Awareness’ at Hartwood Acres.  This is especially for Maeve Mannion, age 2.  Information Gina Marton 412-860-1252.

LAOH Division 11 will sponsor a ‘Celtic Halloween Fundraiser’ at St. Mary of the Mount Sullivan Hall, 115 Bigham St. Mt. Washington, from 7:00 PM.  Entertainment by DJ – T.  Tickets $15.00, BYOB.  Information Maureen O’Toole 412.913.4184 or Clara Schillinger 412.734.1147.

Saturday, November 1

Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, 2329 Penn Ave., in The Strip, presents The Guinness Oyster Festival

Saturday, November 8

All Ireland Social at the American Legion Hall, 5857 Forbes Ave. in Squirrel Hill, 8:00PM.   Music with CCE Musicians.  Information: Ray Connolly at 412-373-7252

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.  Come for "Irish Nite" on tuesdays for Guiness, Smitchwick's and Half & Half Specials 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


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.


The Ireland Institute relies on its donor and volunteer network to continue its mission of mutual reconciliation and economic development. Your generosity is kindly appreciated.

The Ireland Institute is available to accept donations through the United Way. Please remember our code for the United Way Campaign of Southwestern Pennsylvania: 4534. We are also listed as a non-Profit under the Combined Federal Campaign. Our number is: 12438. A third option is to donate through the local Federal campaign. This number is: 9016.

If you prefer, a tax-deductible donation can also be made directly to the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh. The Ireland Institute also appreciates in-kind donations of furniture, housewares, event tickets etc. that we can then distribute to our participants.

For further information or questions about how you can donate, please complete the form below.




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