Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has praised the courage, dignity and strength of Bostonians as the city recovers from the horrors of the marathon bombing.

The Fine Gael leader made the comments at the start of his controversial visit when he will speak at Boston College’s commencement ceremony on Monday.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley is to boycott the ceremony in protest at the Irish government’s current plans to rewrite abortion legislation.

Kenny’s trip began with a speech at a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of President John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland.

The Irish Times reports that the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) praised the courage and strength of Bostonians following last month’s marathon bombings.

Speaking at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, he said: “The dignity and strength shown following the bombings would deal with the physical and emotional debris of the terror.

“There will be bigger crowds participating in next year’s marathon and the year after, to show people that not only is Boston strong but others from around the world want to build on that strength.”

PM Kenny is in America on a three day trip centered around the Boston College commencement ceremony on Monday.

His visit has sparked controversy after the Archbishop of Boston announced his decision to boycott the ceremony where Kenny will receive an honorary degree.

Traditionally Cardinal O’Malley delivers the final benediction at Boston College’s annual commencement but he has refused to attend this year.

Cardinal O’Malley said: “Mr Kenny is aggressively promoting abortion legislation.”

The Irish Times reports that the Cardinal’s boycott was alluded to in passing at Saturday night’s dinner during a speech made by former Massachusetts senator Paul Kirk as he introduced PM Kenny.

Kirk said: “Enda Kenny had courageously used his bully pulpit to speak the unvarnished but necessary and inconvenient truth to the highest institutions of religious power on the fundamental issues of honesty, transparency, accountability and social justice.”

The comments from Kirk drew applause from the Boston crowd.

In a nod to history, Kenny received a framed copy of President Kennedy’s handwritten note of the poem River Shannon, which the president read before his departure from Shannon on his famous visit to Ireland in June 1963.

President Kennedy took note of the poem when Irish President Eamon de Valera’s wife Sinead recited it to him at a dinner the previous evening.

The report says that after reading the poem at Shannon, President Kennedy promised to return to Ireland the following spring. He was assassinated in Dallas in November 1963.

Amongst the attendance at Saturday night’s dinner was Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late senator Teddy Kennedy, President Kennedy’s brother; Irish Ambassador to the US Michael Collins; US congresswoman Niki Tsongas; Massachusetts House of Representatives member Linda Dorcena Forry; and secretary of state of the commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin.

PM Kenny will lay a wreath on Sunday at the temporary memorial in Boston for the victims of the marathon bombings.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny to speak at US Ireland Law and Business SymposiumJulien Behal / PRESS ASSOCIATION