Enda Kenny insists: I am not a ‘Catholic Taoiseach’

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has declared that he is "a Taoiseach who happens to be Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach" after criticism by the Church of his abortion Bill.

It came after the Catholic Bishops had come out to strongly oppose the Government's abortion legislation.

But without mentioning the bishops directly, Mr Kenny said it was his 'duty' to bring the legislation through.

"I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as a Taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach. A Taoiseach for all of the people, that's my job. I am proud to lead the Government in governing for all our people, all our people, all our people, irrespective of the sector of society that they come from," he said.

Mr Kenny got a round of applause from Government backbenchers in the Dail - with Sinn Fein TDs who support the abortion bill also joining in.

He also revealed the intensity of the opposition to the abortion Bill by referring to the material sent to his office.

"I'm now being branded by personnel around the country as a murderer, that I'm going to have on my soul the death of 20 million babies. I'm getting medals, scapulars, letters written in blood, telephone calls - and it's not confined to me," he said.

He and the cabinet are meeting today to finalise the Bill, which is due to be published later this week.

Mr Kenny said there was a requirement of the Government to govern.

"I've already made it clear there will not be a free vote for members of the Government parties," he said.

Mr Kenny said the abortion legislation would provide legal clarity for pregnant women whose lives were in danger and was about 'saving lives".

He was responding to a call at Leader's Questions queries from Independent TD Mattie McGrath to allow Government backbenchers to have a free vote.

Mr McGrath said it was a legally flawed, medically unsound and constitutionally unnecessary Bill.

"It's not too late to take account of these concerns. It's not too late to allow members of your own party a free vote," he said.