An anti abortion protest against Irish leader Enda Kenny fizzled badly at Boston College where he delivered the commencement address on Monday and received an honorary degree.

Only a few dozen protesters appeared, some playing bagpipes. Organizers had hoped that hundreds would come and protest Kenny who is set to introduce Ireland’s first abortion law since 1861 after the Supreme Court ruled that the life of the mother had to be safeguarded in unique circumstances.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley had boycotted the ceremonies after Kenny’s bill was introduced in parliament.

Excerpts of Kenny’s speech, which was greeted with a standing ovation are included below.

“I’m honored to speak here today and be admitted to the distinguished ranks of the alumni of Boston College. Your invitation signals the enduring kindness and affection between our peoples. It symbolises the bond of ‘hope and history’ between two nations either side of the Atlantic.

"In your kind invitation to me, know that you honour all the generations of Irish people.”

The Taoiseach said of the graduating students: “Here today, are men and women who will go on to be leaders of corporations, communities, countries. You will lead, rooted in the values of your families, your faith and this great university.”

“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.”

“Today, you sit beside each other, in happiness, great joy. One day, you may cross cities, time zones, oceans, to sit beside each other again, in very different circumstances. As you do, make sure to pack this old advice. That it matters less what happens to us, than how we deal with it. That, in life, we can allow our experience to strengthen us or diminish us. The choice is ours. As graduates of Boston College, I know what yours will be.”

Referring to the recent attack on the Patriots’ Day Boston Marathon, the Taoiseach said:

“In this city, strength is your default position. The hurt of the Boston Marathon attack is still palpable, but the people of this great city have responded with their usual courage, dignity and compassion.”

Concluding, the Taoiseach said:”Today, the future you long imagined is here. I urge you to take possession and quickly. Because to you and your generation the torch has been passed. You are young America. And while in our world, we might astonish ourselves, to hunt and even find the God particle, to look to set up outposts on Mars, as human, our needs are fragile as ever – food, water, air. Compassion, peace, love, hope.”

“Soon, graduates we must leave those needs, our planet, our future in your hands. Be successful, be well, be happy. Above all, be yourselves. Live long and deep and comfortably in your own skin. And as you do, know that from this day, like the rivers that have carved their way across this great country, so will your lives, your endeavours, your achievements carve their way into the story of America.

“Go beyond what’s reliable. Look out beyond America. Be unlimited in your vision. See what respect and understanding can do for us. We who are merely an episode in the story of humanity.

“Graduates, this is your time. Be not afraid. Today, then, you have reached what we call in Irish Ceann Scríbe. Turas amháin déanta, turas eile ás bhúr gcomhair amach.One journey completed, another directly ahead. As you end and begin those journeys, I wish you Godspeed, fair winds and gift you the advice of our Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney.

“‘When they make the circle wide, it’s time to swim out on your own and fill the element with signatures on your own frequency, echo soundings, searches, probes, allurements,elver-gleams in the dark of the whole sea’.”

Irish prime minister Enda Kenny speaks to graduates at Boston College after receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.Elise Amendola/AP