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BOSTON, May 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life student protesters demonstrated outside Boston College’s graduation ceremony Monday as Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny gave the keynote speech and received an honorary degree from the Catholic school.

Sean Cardinal O’Malley, who traditionally attends the graduation, boycotted the event in protest, citing a directive of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that says Catholic institutions must “not honor government officials or politicians who promote abortion with their laws and policies.”

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Kenny – whose Irish title, “Taoiseach,” is roughly analogous to “prime minister” in English – has been at the center of a storm of controversy in Ireland over the “Protection of Maternal Life” abortion bill. The law would permit abortions to save the life of the mother, even in the case of a suicide threat.

Kenny, who once promised voters he would never touch the nation's total abortion ban, has aggressively pushed the legislation, threatening to banish from his Fine Gael Party any members who fail to vote for it.

Kenny’s invitation to Boston College has prompted outrage in Catholic and pro-life circles, with thousands of people signing petitions and sending letters demanding the school disinvite him.

On Monday, campus group Students for Life gathered outside the entrance of the college, holding signs that said, “We are the pro-life generation.” Members of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, and Operation Rescue Boston were also on hand to protest the event.

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“The fact that Boston College is honoring the man who is pushing an abortion bill that will lead to the mass death of preborn Irish children and the harm of countless women and families is unconscionable,” said Kristan Hawkins, who heads the national Students for Life group. “If Boston College won’t stand for the preborn at its graduation ceremonies, we will,” added Hawkins.

She noted that Kenny’s liberal views on abortion are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church, adding that the college should revoke Kenny’s honorary degree.

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“At a time when the Church and the entire pro-life movement in Ireland are resisting Kenny’s proposed changes in Irish law, a Catholic institution is honoring Mr. Kenny,” said Boston College alumnus C.J. Doyle, who serves as executive director of the Catholic Action League. “It is a deplorable scandal and an unconscionable betrayal.”

Marty Walz, President and CEO of Massachusetts Planned Parenthood, expressed pleasure at the choice of Mr. Kenny to speak to the Catholic graduates, deeming Kenny an “appropriate commencement speaker.”

“It is disappointing that a measure to provide health care to a woman whose life is in danger would draw protest in Massachusetts,” Walz said.

The Catholic Church in Ireland opposes the abortion bill, and has urged the Irish people to contact their representatives to demand they vote against it.

Sean Cardinal Brady, the Primate of Ireland, said the bill would “make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland.”

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