PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has defended controversial comments he made surrounding the investigation into the death of Savita Halappanavar following concerns about whether it was his place to do so.
Coalition TDs were privately critical of Mr Higgins, saying he had overstepped the mark after calling for "some form of investigation" which meets the needs of the public, family and the State.
But Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore stood by the President saying he was "reflecting the national mood" and had not crossed the constitutional line.
"I think the President was reflecting what is the national mood. That is the President's role," he said.
Mr Gilmore said Mr Higgins had not crossed the line and his predecessors had similarly expressed views on issues.
Denying he was trying to extend the role of the president, Mr Higgins said he was representing the views of thousands of Irish people when he said he hoped there would be an investigation which satisfied the needs of her family, the public and the State.
Fine Gael TD James Bannon yesterday said it was unusual for the President to comment on such issues as it was normally a matter for the Government and the Oireachtas.
Speaking in Liverpool yesterday, on the second day of his visit to the north west of England, the President said he was joining with those who have taken to the streets. "I know what the President does. The President expresses, as it were, what is a great, great moment of sadness among the Irish people," he said.
The President denied that he was expressing a view on how the inquiry should take place, or what the outcome would be.
"No, that is not my business. What I did say is that it should be aimed to ensure the safety of the health of women and I think surely that is the greatest consideration," Mr Higgins said.
In his remarks earlier this week, the President said he hoped any inquiry would result in women getting the services they needed. This, and not the image of Ireland, was his primary concern, he said.
Yesterday morning, President Higgins attended an event on the LE Eithne, which was docked in Liverpool harbour, to launch 'The Gathering' tourist initiative in the city.
The President said that he hoped those who would be unable to travel home to Ireland for financial or citizenship reasons would be able to celebrate the event in the countries where they are living.