Anti-abortion activists protest at Taoiseach’s attendance at Boston College

Enda Kenny was the guest speaker at the college’s commencement ceremony today

Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited a memorial in Copley Square near the finish line of the Boston Marathon to lay flowers today. Photograph: Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited a memorial in Copley Square near the finish line of the Boston Marathon to lay flowers today. Photograph: Reuters

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has rejected the suggestion of anti-abortion protestors that he is the number one supporter of abortion in Ireland, saying that the Government’s proposed bill would not change the law on abortion.

Responding to protestor claims outside Boston College where Mr Kenny was the keynote speaker at the university’s commencement ceremony, the Taoiseach said that he had a duty to uphold the constitution.

“There is no change in the legislation in regard to abortion which has been on the statute books now since 1861,” he said.

“The situation in our constitution has been endorsed on two occasions by the people. What the government is doing here is setting out clarity and legal certainty that is intended to save lives, not to end them.”

About 50 anti-abortion activists protested before his attendance at the ceremony at the Jesuit college where he received an honorary degree.

The protestors held placards and banners outside the college’s Alumni Stadium where the commencement ceremony took place objecting to Mr Kenny’s appearance over the Government’s abortion legislation.

The Taoiseach delivered the keynote address at the ceremony in front of about 4,400 graduates and an estimated 20,000 people attending the annual graduation ceremony.

“We were outraged that Boston College would chose to honour Ireland’s first pro-abortion prime minister,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America.

“We are also here because we want to draw attention to what is going on in Ireland for Americans to see.”

Introducing the Taoiseach, the college said in its citation that since he took office Mr Kenny has “had to deal with Ireland’s daunting fiscal crisis as well as various political and social challenges.”

The Taoiseach’s appearance stirred controversy in the Boston area when Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who traditionally attends the event as Archbishop of Boston, declined an invite because the Taoiseach was “aggressively promoting abortion legislation.”

One of the anti-abortion protestors outside the ceremony, Fr Neil O’Donoghue, who is originally from Ballincollig, Co Cork but now lives in New Jersey, said that the Cardinal had made a good decision.

“It was courageous not to come because traditionally he would come but he saw that it was impossible for him to come,” said the priest.

In his address to graduates, whom he called the “Obama generation”, Mr Kenny spoke about the strong ties between Ireland and the United States.

In a 23-minute speech, he referenced the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, the rainy weather in Seattle, a David Bowie song and Twitter, and thanked God that there was no rain at the ceremony.

The college’s invitation to speak at the event “signals the enduring kindness and affection between our peoples,” the Taoiseach said.

“It symbolises the bond of hope and history between the two nations on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.”

Mr Kenny referred to the generations of Irish who emigrated to America and their role in the country’s history.

Many in attendance at today’s ceremony were descended from men and women who left Ireland during the Great Famine, he said.

“The hands that were ruffled in Irish soil were leathered in your mines, on your scaffolding, on your bridges and on your railroads,” he said.

“Over the generations our farmers turned labourers saw to it that their children went from the schoolhouse and the fire-house right to the White House itself.”

Mr Kenny later told reporters that the commencement ceremony was “an extraordinary occasion.”