Prime Minister Enda Kenny said that while he is a Catholic, he is not a Catholic leader.
The Taoiseach said, “I am now being branded by personnel around the country as being a murderer. I’m going to have on my soul the death of 20 million babies. I’m getting medals, scapulars, plastic foetuses, letters written in blood, telephone calls all over the system and it’s not confined to me.” Kenny's comments came after two earlier meetings the same day where the progression of abortion legislation was discussed.
Kenny told the parliament that his role as Taoiseach “is not confined to any sector of the people, it is for all the people. Therefore I am proud to stand here as a public representative, who happens to be a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach. I am a Taoiseach for all the people and that’s my job.”
Kenny’s comments were in response to TD Mattie McGrath’s call to reverse his decision to not permit Fine Gael TDs a free vote according to their conscience regarding the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
The Irish Times reports that the Pro-Life Campaign accused the Taoiseach of “demonizing” their movement with his public comments about the threats made to him.
A spokesman said while it “unequivocally condemns” any type of threatening correspondence, Kenny’s decision to discuss his treatment in public was inappropriate.
“If he’s receiving correspondence and threats he should refer it to the gardai. He should not be talking about it publicly, but rather focus on the matter at hand which is the provisions of the new legislation,” the spokesman said.
“By highlighting that sort of behaviour, the Taoiseach only gives oxygen to it.”
Similarly, the Iona Institute, a Catholic lobby group, said it deplores the behavior outlined by the Taoiseach, and it discourages campaigners from contacting politicians.
“Both sides should desist from this kind of correspondence,” said Iona director David Quinn. “But I hope pro-choice groups will be questioned over their behaviour too.”
The new abortion legislation was released late on Wednesday June 12 and included two significant changes.
Minister for Health James Reilly said on RTE’s Morning Ireland that no medical institution will be allowed to refuse a woman a termination if her life is in danger.
He said while individual doctors can have a conscientious objection to providing a termination, hospitals will not be allowed to object to treating a patient.
"All the institutions mentioned in this (bill) are funded by the taxpayer. We could not have a situation where a service being funded by the taxpayer could deprive a citizen of their rights,” said Minister Reilly.
"So under those circumstances, we see absolutely no indication or room for an institution to have a conscientious objection."
Also on Thursday, Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews said on RTE’s Today with Pat Kenny that the possibility of holding a free vote on abortion legislation will be discussed at the party’s next parliamentary meeting.
TD Mathews said he has tabled a motion for next Wednesday's meeting to have a "personal conscience vote" on any legislation involving "the termination and values of life.”
Matthews, who said he would not be voting in favor of the bill, said it was his understanding that there is no requirement for the Oireachtas to produce legislation such as the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill in order to meet constitutional requirements.
He added that he believes there “would be at least a few” other Fine Gael TDs who feel the same as him.