Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sad Songs Set the Tone for Irishman's Story

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sad Songs Set the Tone for Irishman's Story

Article excerpt

THE GUITAR was missing a string, but the man had learned to play around that handicap. As he strummed, he sang in a soft voice. The children - his two and several others - sat as if mesmerized.

He had learned to play the guitar years ago and miles away. In another world, really. One of his cellmates taught him.

No wonder, then, that he has always done the sad songs best. The ballad that is his life was soon to turn sad, too. I knew that as I sat in his living room and listened to him a couple of weeks ago. He knew it, too. He had been told, unofficially, that the government was going to reject his appeal. He had been told, unofficially, that he would be deported. Now it's official. Last week he got the word. It came through the mail. Matthew Morrison, currently of University City but once of Derry, faces imminent deportation. As regular readers know, Morrison came of age in Northern Ireland when that country, always a tinderbox, was fully ablaze. He joined the Irish Republican Army and was arrested for shooting at a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The shot went wide. Morrison did 10 years in prison. During his imprisonment, he became a pen pal with an idealistic young woman from St. Louis. She visited him in prison, and when he was released in 1985, they decided to marry. He came to this country on a temporary visa, and when that expired, he went underground. Shortly after their second child was born, the pressure of the underground life became too heavy a burden. Morrison declared himself and asked for permanent residency status. That was five years ago. I've written about the ups and downs of his plight a number of times in the past five years. Mostly it's been downs. In fact, all the real stuff, all the things you could hold in your hand, have been downs. The ups have had the texture of mist. A wink and a nod to the Irish-American community from Candidate Clinton in 1992, the 1993 marriage of a man convicted of IRA activities to a Kennedy, the 1994 cease-fire. One could read good news into these things. But always, the next real news would be bad. The case held a peculiar fascination for me. My people, too, are from Northern Ireland, but we are from the other side of the skirmish line. …

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