Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said Cardinal Sean O’Malley is entitled to his opinion on abortion – as protesters prepare to voice their opposition to his visit to Boston College.

Kenny made his comments as he laid a floral tribute on behalf of the Irish people at the site of the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Irish leader visited the Boston Marathon memorial site in Copley Square with Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis on Sunday.

In an interview with reporters afterwards, he addressed Cardinal O’Malley’s decision to boycott the Boston College commencement ceremony on Monday in protest at proposed changes to Ireland’s abortion laws.

The Archbishop of Boston traditionally attends the ceremony but Cardinal O’Malley has refused this year’s invitation due to Kenny’s presence on behalf of the Irish government.

The Bishop has claimed that Kenny is ‘aggressively promoting abortion legislation’.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Kenny replied: “Boston College issued these invitations and people are entitled to either accept or not to accept.”

Declining to comment on whether it was appropriate for the cardinal to become involved in the Irish national debate over the proposed abortion legislation, he added: “People are perfectly entitled to their opinions.

“I have a message for young America. The focus should be on those graduating.”

The report says Ireland’s PM said it was a ‘unique honour’ to be asked to speak at the ceremony for a college celebrating its 150th anniversary, 50 years after President John F Kennedy gave the centennial commencement address at the Jesuit college.

The Fine Gael leader had laid several bouquets of flowers at the Copley Square memorial which continues to grow since being relocated in the weeks following the April 15 bombings that killed three and injured nearly 200.

He said: “Probably the numbers for next year’s Boston Marathon will far exceed expectations, so in that sense, it’s a privilege on behalf of the people of Ireland to lay flowers at the scene.”

Sporting a ‘Boston Strong’ lapel pin, Kenny spent about 10 minutes touring the memorial before greeting onlookers and shaking hands.

He added: “It is important to visit considering the large Irish influence in Boston.

“I wanted to come to this square today to show solidarity with the people of Boston.”

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny visits the Boston Marathon memorial, accompanied by the City's Police Commissioner Ed