Taoiseach tells Dáil he is ‘a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach’

Taoiseach receives plastic foetuses, medals, scapulars, letters in blood over abortion row

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil while was a Catholic he was ’not a Catholic Taoiseach’. Photograph: Ints Kalnins /Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil while was a Catholic he was ’not a Catholic Taoiseach’. Photograph: Ints Kalnins /Reuters

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil while he is a Catholic, he is “not a Catholic Taoiseach”.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil his job as Taoiseach “is not confined to any sector of the people, it is for all the people. Therefore I am proud to stand here as a public representative, who happens to be a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach. I am a Taoiseach for all the people and that’s my job.”

Mr Kenny has received letters written in blood and claims that he is a murderer because of the forthcoming abortion legislation.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil he acknowledged the issue was sensitive. But he said: “I am now being branded by personnel around the country as being a murderer. I’m going to have on my soul the death of 20 million babies. I’m getting medals, scapulars, plastic foetuses, letters written in blood, telephone calls all over the system and it’s not confined to me.” He did not agree with many of the statements that had been made.

Mr Kenny was responding to Independent TD Mattie McGrath who called on the Taoiseach to reverse his decision not to allow Fine Gael TDs have a free vote according to their conscience on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

The Taoiseach told the Tipperary South TD that the legislation had not yet been published and he should wait until it was.

Mr Kenny was speaking in the Dáil after a Cabinet meeting about the legislation, which is expected to be published shortly.

Mr McGrath said he hoped the Taoiseach had read the transcripts of the recent three day hearings on abortion, held by the health committee and the legal views expressed there. He said that despite all Mr Kenny’s assurances, “we can have no confidence that the State will act in the best interests of the unborn child, especially when the State has a litany of historical failures regarding unborn children”.

Repeating his call for a free vote, Mr McGrath asked the Taoiseach for a referendum on the issue.

Mr Kenny said the Government took its legal advice from the Attorney General. He reminded him that the electorate had voted twice on the issue and “they confirmed and re-endorsed the Constitutional rights of women in this country to have a termination of a pregnancy in specific circumstances, where there is a threat to the life of the mother”.

The Taoiseach also said the Government was obliged to provide legal clarity on the issue.

Later, the Pro-Life Campaign accused the Taoiseach of “demonising” the movement with his comments. A spokesman said while it “unequivocally condemns” any type of threatening correspondence, Mr Kenny’s decision to discuss his treatment in public was inappropriate. “If he’s receiving correspondence and threats he should refer it to the gardai. He should not be talking about it publicly, but rather focus on the matter at hand which is the provisions of the new legislation,” he said. “By highlighting that sort of behaviour, the Taoiseach only gives oxygen to it.”

The spokesman said anti-abortion campaigners had been subject to threatens of a “violent and obscene” nature. The Pro-Life Campaign organised a protest in Dublin on Saturday, which thousands of people attended.

Elsewhere, the Iona Institute, a Catholic lobby group, said it deplores the behaviour outlined by the Taoiseach and it discourages campaigners from contacting politicians. “Both sides should desist from this kind of correspondence,” said Iona director David Quinn. “But I hope pro-choice groups will be questioned over their behaviour too.”