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One hundred thousand welcomes to you to my official blog of all things Irish from me, Diane Byrnes, host of the Echoes of Erin radio show on WEDO Radio 810AM.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Happenings Around My Town

Happenings Around My Town – Pittsburgh, PA

March 4, 2007

Recently I purchased a digital camera so I could include pictures on this blog. I’m on a constant technological journey, learning and experimenting all the time, so hopefully the pictures I add tonight will be with the appropriate text.

Picture on Left: Jim Caldwell and Sarah McAuliffe-Bellin
Picture on Right: Bobby Lavery and Sarah McAuliffe-Bellin

The past week has been quite busy, exciting and interesting! Sunday, February 25th the Irish American Unity Conference Pittsburgh Chapter presented a Speakers Event with two former Irish Republican POW’s, Terry Kirby and Bobby Lavery who shared some of their life’s experiences in Long Kesh.

Picture on the Left: Bobby Lavery
Picture on the Right: Terry Kirby

Bobby Lavery was in Long Kesh for three years in the 1970’s; he was one of the first former POW’s to move into politics. As a Sinn Fein Councilor, he was elected for three terms; but the price was heavy. His brother Martin was murdered just before Christmas 1992 in his living room wrapping presents. Then Bobby’s son, Sean Lavery, was murdered August 1993 when loyalist paramilitaries sprayed the home with gunfire. Sean died in his father’s arms. Bobby has since moved to the U.S. and is working on a teaching degree. He promotes peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, and although difficult, is supportive of Sinn Fein’s stance on the PSNI. He is still fighting to remain in America.

Picture on the Left: Terry Kirby & Sean McClorey
Picture on the Right: Terry Kirby, Gretchen Bales and Sarah McAuliffe-Bellin, President Pgh. IAUC

(Much thanks is extended to Gretchen Bales of Ball State University for initiating this Speaking Tour and being instrumental in Bobby and Terry coming to Pittsburgh.)

Terry Kirby was interned at age 17 and by 1981 he had spent several years in prison. As one of the Blanketmen and cell mate of one of the ten Hunger Strikers, he knew them well and shared the sorrow of their death. In September 1983, Terry joined 37 other prisoners and escaped from the ‘escape-proof’ Maze Prison (Long Kesh). He eventually made his way to America.

In 1992, two former prisoners and fellow Maze escapees, Kevin Barry and Jimmy Smyth were arrested in California, their arrests set off extradition requests by the British government. In 1993 a third prisoner and fellow escapee, Pol Brennan, was also arrested; these three became known as the ‘H-Block 3’.

When Terry was arrested in 1994, he became part of the ‘H-Block 4’. These men spent several years in prison in California with Jimmy Smyth being extradited back to Northern Ireland. Now they were back to the ‘H-Block 3’ and pursued their cases in the Ninth Circuit court of Appeals and petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court. Because of British government misconduct in the case and the British government’s refusal to produce documents to the Court, in 2000 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals set free all three men. Although Terry still lives in the U.S., his situation is tenuous.

Terry Kirby also supports the Good Friday Agreement and Sinn Fein’s position on the PSNI. He too realizes the difficulty with support of the PSNI, but feels this is the only way forward.

Picture on Left: Larry Brophy, Eileen McClorey & Terry Kirby
Picture on Right: Kevin Sean & Johnny Donohue (The Cousins)

It was quite an education for all in attendance to hear these personal and tragic stories that are not often shared. Maybe it is time for John Q. Public to listen and learn the dastardly deeds committed by a government against its citizens.

Picture on the Left: Jim, Patrick Coyne, & Jimmy
Picture on the Right: Diane Byrnes & Susan Lavery (Bobby's Wife)

Here is Jim Caldwell and a Friend taking a much needed break. Jim is Treasurer of the Irish American Unity Conference, Pittsburgh Branch.

The next evening, February 26th, The Wolfe Tones performed in concert to a sell out crowd at Finnegan’s Wake. Their show was excellent as usual and new this year was a marvelous slide show depicting Irish history. The Wolfe Tones have been known for years as a ‘rebel’ band; their music has reflected much of what has happened to the Republican and Nationalist community. Their music is still reflective of that history, but it also reflects hope and the very real prospect of a better tomorrow. If you haven’t heard Brian Warfield, Noel Nagel and Tommy Byrne for a while, now is the time. Make sure you see them where ever they are performing.

Picture on the Left: Brian Warfield, Noel Nagel, Tommy Byrne
Picture on the Right: Tommy Byrne & Diane Byrnes (I've attended the Wolfe Tones Concerts since the mid 70's and this was the first time I actually had a picture with Tommy.)

This concert was sponsored by the LAOH Division 11, The Pittsburgh Celtics Gaelic Football Club and the Pittsburgh Banshees Ladies Football Club. A Job well done boys and girls! Look at who else was there...

Picture on the Left: Joe Bendel, Patsy Shovlin, Johnny Shovlin & Patrick Connelly
Picture on the Right: Marty & Casey Cloonan

Picture on the Left: Diane Byrnes & Shaun Dowd
Picture on the Right: The Byrnes Brothers, Tom & Jim

Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle was guest on Echoes of Erin today. Congressman Doyle informed us that he will be part of a historical Congressional Delegation traveling to Ireland, London and Northern Ireland on March 31st. This national delegation, headed by Congressman Richard Neal, D - MA will meet with President Mary McAleese; Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern and others in government. They will travel to London to meet Prime Minister, Tony Blair and then to Belfast to meet Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams. The Congressional Delegation is very supportive of the expected devolution in Northern Ireland.

Congressman Doyle said he might try to come back on Echoes of Erin and give us an update of this trip.

There are many fun activities coming up over the next two weeks; you can read their details on Dateline Irish; but I did want to highlight a few items.

On Friday, March 9th,
St. Patrick’s Day Parade Button Party takes place at Mitchell’s Restaurant, 304 Ross Street, Downtown, Pittsburgh beginning at 5:00 pm, the buttons are $25.00. For the past several years, the Parade Fundraising Committee, headed up by Jack Goodrich came up with the idea of creating and selling a button to help defray the costs of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. For many years the students at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh have come up with some unique designs. A week before the Parade Mitchell’s Restaurant hosts the Button Party which has grown by leaps and bounds where we now have both floors.

Miss Smiling Irish Eyes and her Court are introduced this evening as is St. Brigid’s Court. The 2007 Miss Smiling Irish Eyes is Jocilyn Delaney and her Court is comprised of Colleen Murphy and Kerry O’Leary. St. Brigid’s Court is Erin Gannon who has been a participant in Special Olympics. Congratulations to these young ladies.

On Saturday, March 10th a new group will be making their debut appearance at
Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle. The 9-piece Easter Rising Band begins at 9:00 pm. The group started up while attending the Roman Catholic seminary The Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. Although some members of Easter Rising no longer study for the priesthood, they all remain committed as a band to the purpose of Easter Rising the fostering of communio for whoever has ears to listen.

Their influences have been The Pogues, The Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners, and The Turfmen. Easter Rising has a traditional Irish music sound blended with rock-and-roll, bluegrass and soul music. It is something we have come to term “Folk n’Roll, Irish Soul.” They certainly sound very interesting.

That’s all for now folks and hopefully I’ll have the pictures placed properly.

Diane Byrnes


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