Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has been strongly criticized by opposition leaders following his Fine Gael Party’s national conference and a rare television interview.

The conference in his home town, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, was a celebration by the party faithful of “all things Enda,” but his preceding RTE interview with Miriam O’Callaghan brought massive opposition criticism.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin accused Kenny of delivering a “big political lie” in the TV interview.

“Saying the government had negotiated a €50 billion write down -- that was a big political lie,” Martin said.

Martin said Kenny had not effected or negotiated “any €50 billion write down or savings on national debt.” He added, “He didn’t even ask...and couldn’t answer Miriam O’Callaghan on that particular point.”

Martin also said Kenny was “wrong” and “overly simplistic” in his portrayal of Fianna Fail as the party that wrecked the economy.

The Fianna Fail leader said it was time Kenny came out from behind the protection of set-piece events and faced him in a proper debate.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, aiming specific criticism at Kenny’s address to the Fine Gael national conference in Castlebar, described the taoiseach’s speech as a back-slapping exercise which failed to address the polarization in society.

In his speech Kenny demonstrated that his Fine Gael was seeking to continue in power with Labor after next year’s general election.

He paid tribute to Labor Party leader Joan Burton and said both parties would continue to work day and night to secure the financial recovery already started in their current coalition.

Kenny drew loud cheers when he said, “The next election will be a clear choice between moving forward or risking the country’s progress to those who wrecked it in the past, or to those whose policies would wreck our future.”

Kenny also appealed to the Irish electorate to vote yes to same-sex marriage to send a powerful signal about the nature of Irish society as the nation approached the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

He said that when the people of Ireland voted in the referendum in May the issue would be whether the state should allow same-sex couples the right to civil marriage.

“As we approach the centenary of the Rising, a yes vote would, I believe, send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland has evolved into a fair, compassionate and tolerant nation,” Kenny said.

“I believe that this is the right thing to do. I and the Fine Gael Party strongly support a yes vote. And therefore I say to all same-sex couples in our country, this is about you, it’s about your right to say two small words, made up of three simple letters – ‘I do.’

“For you, in your lives together, may they become your letters of freedom.”

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny.Photocall