Enda Kenny made the comments at the commencement address to the Boston College graduation ceremony which was boycotted by the Boston Archbishop, Sean O’Malley, who said the Taoiseach was “aggressively promoting abortion legislation”.
Around 50 people gathered outside to protest against the decision to allow “Ireland’s first pro-abortion prime minister” deliver the address to 4,400 graduates, and their families at the Catholic college.
The Students for Life of America group said it was holding its protest and prayer vigil to “stand up for women” and “voice their support for keeping Ireland abortion-free”.
Its president, Kristan Hawkings, said: “Abortion is the greatest human rights battle happening in Ireland right now, and Kenny is the face of the pro-abortion movement in the country.
“Honouring a man who will be ushering in the genocide of millions of unborn babies in just a few months conveys the message that Boston College supports his stance, one that is in direct violation of Catholic Church doctrine.”
Asked afterwards if he was offended or annoyed by what the protesters said about him, Mr Kenny said: “As the head of government, I have a duty to stay with the Constitution, which as I have pointed out on many occasions belongs to the people.
“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.”
In his speech, Mr Kenny said: “Those privileged to lead this, or any other democracy, will do so not as Catholic or Protestant or dissenter, but as men and women guided by and beholden to nothing but the law, the Constitution and above all, the people. All the people — of all faiths and none.
“You will do so without fear or favour because your God, your personal faith, will sustain you. Constant, immutable, they are, and will always be, with you. Keep them close and you will never face your public decisions, your challenges, your difficulties, alone.”
Mr Kenny also thanked God at the start of the speech, for his presence at the ceremony.
Fr Neil Xavier O’Donoghue, from Ballincollig, Co Cork, and living in the US for 23 years, travelled 200 miles from New Jersey to attend the protest.
“I am disappointed with An Taoiseach — having run on a pro-life platform — now legalising abortion which could become abortion in the ninth month which is a tragedy. If he holds these views, he should not be here today.”
He said the archbishop was “courageous” to boycott the event. “It’s unfortunate the college has made this decision and the college found himself unable to attend. He is here in Boston, in his place, he has all the right in the world to object.”
John Byrne from Ardee in Co Louth, and living in Boston for 25 years, believes that the debate in Ireland is getting more Irish-Americans getting involved in the US anti-abortion movement.
“They realise that the clock is ticking and it’s important that we weigh in behind those at home who are trying to stop this law from getting passed.
“The ending of life transcends international barriers, whether you are Irish or Chinese, we have to involve ourselves. All catholics have to protect all human rights of the vulnerable, the weak, the poor and the marginalised and abortion is the gravest of them all.”
Alex Atiyeh was due to graduate from Environmental Studies but did not attend because Mr Kenny was speaking at it. His sister, Anna, took part in the protest: “As a family, we decided he should not go. My brother, knowing that Enda Kenny was here, was fine with that decision.
“He is a pro-abortion politician, he shouldn’t be speaking at a Catholic university event, he doesn’t stand for the same morals that catholics stand for.”