| 18°C Dublin

Standing ovation for Kenny in Boston despite protests

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny received a standing ovation for a charismatic address to Boston College graduates, despite the controversy which surrounded his invitation to the Jesuit school.

While anti-abortion protesters gathered outside, Mr Kenny delivered an address filled with the metaphors of growth, adulthood and personal development, sprinkled with wit and genuine enthusiasm.

During his 26-minute speech, he even referenced his own experiences as a father (to Naoise, Ferdia and Aoibhinn), as he spoke to the proud parents in the crowd, while his wife Fionnuala watched from the audience.

"Today, you might feel as if you blinked, only to find your child here, grown, radiant," he said. "Their newly minted degrees imposters in a life where a whole five minutes ago, you yourselves were the font of all knowledge. How bees buzz? If we can see the wind? How come air is invisible ? Why is green? What does it taste like?

He took the 6,000-strong audience for a walk down memory lane, referring to Rosa Parks' influence on the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the birth of blue jeans in the late 19th century and the current "Obama generation".

The Fine Gael leader, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in law, proved a particular hit among the graduates' parents, who delivered cheers of support and laughter throughout.

But it was his reference to a "strong Boston" that garnered the loudest applause. Later in the day, two survivors of the Boston marathon bombings, Brittany Loring and Liza Cherney, had recovered enough to receive their postgraduate diplomas from the Carroll School of Business.

Despite the positive response from the crowd, Mr Kenny was initially welcomed by more than 40 pro-life protestors at the entrance of Boston College.

Pro-life activists joined Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley in boycotting the event due to Mr Kenny's stance on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.

John O'Donoghue, from Artane in Dublin, who was with the original pro-life amendment campaign in Ireland and is now living in Massachusetts, said he was "shocked" at the Fine Gael leader's presence. "I'm absolutely shocked that a top Jesuit college would invite a man that is supporting the abortion bill. (He) shouldn't be let inside the door here."

But speaking about the abortion legislation issue, the Taoiseach said: "As the head of government, I have a duty to stay with the Constitution, which I have pointed out on many occasions.

"There is no change in the legislation. The situation in our Constitution has been endorsed on two occasions by the people, what the Government are doing here is setting out clarity and legal certainty, which is intended to save lives, not to end them."

Irish Independent