TAOISEACH Enda Kenny insists his Catholic faith has not been damaged by the controversy over his Government passing the country's first abortion legislation.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Kenny says he remains a regular Massgoer and his religious beliefs are intact.
"I'm a Catholic, admittedly not the best Catholic, but I am a Catholic," he says.
Mr Kenny, right, adds that he is "clear in my mind" the Government's passing of the abortion legislation through the Dail was "absolutely the right thing".
In a wide-ranging interview, at the end of a long Dail term, Mr Kenny says:
* The EU bank deal will take another year to be finalised.
* He wants any funds in the Budget to be put into job creation.
* The DPP is right to take her time in pursuing banking prosecutions.
* The final Dail vote on the abortion legislation reflects the public mood.
* He has a "respectful relationship" with Lucinda Creighton and the other rebels.
* There will be a ministerial reshuffle in the "latter half" of the Coalition's term.
The Taoiseach says the abortion legislation dealt with "very sensitive issues".
Defending his handling of the passing of the legislation within Fine Gael, he says he made himself available to reassure backbenchers about where they stood.
Mr Kenny says the final vote on the legislation, where three-quarters of all TDs backed the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013, was in tune with public opinion.
"I think the vote in the Dail reflected accurately the public mood and the public expression of support in this case," he says.
The Taoiseach says he had no regrets and it was clear in his mind that the Government did the right thing.
"It brings regulation, legal certainty and provides the women of the country who have had a Constitutional right conferred upon them, by virtue of the vote of the people and endorsed secondly, that they were never able to have clarity about – now that clarity is there, that certainty is there," he says.
"And that is a good thing in terms of my Constitutional responsibility here. As I said on many occasions, it is about women, it's about their lives and the lives of their unborn children.
"Written into the legislation is the clarity of the Constitutional responsibility of medical personnel to do everything practical and possible to save the life of the unborn, as well as that of the mother."
Mr Kenny says he retains his staunch Catholic faith and remains a regular Massgoer. He remains dismissive about the threats of excommunication flagged before the abortion legislation debate.
"I have answered that before by saying I talk to my God. That's it. I don't want to comment about the Catholic Church," he says.
Mr Kenny says he remains "respectful" towards Lucinda Creighton (pictured) and the other Fine Gael TDs who voted against the abortion legislation.
"My relationship is she is a member of Fine Gael, until she decides not to be a member of Fine Gael, if that is her choice," he says.
"I have to say that I appointed Lucinda as Minister for European Affairs as part of the team of government. She played her part effectively in the whole business of preparation for the EU Presidency and during the Presidency.
"So I have a very respectful relationship with every member of the party and those who voted against the party, and as a consequence removed themselves from the parliamentary process," he adds.
After appointing two junior ministers in recent months, Mr Kenny says the Cabinet will be the same in the autumn and sticks to his previous commitment not to have a reshuffle this year.
"I'll have the same team of ministers when I come back in September. I'm sure they'll breathe a sigh of relief when they read that."
When asked when the Cabinet reshuffle would take place, he replies: "You are talking the latter half of the Government."