"An avowed abortionist Taoiseach speaking in a Catholic institution which has a mission to train Catholic teachers to hand on the faith to young people, the optics of that is atrocious," McCaffery said.
Varadkar was not invited by the college itself but by a group called Feile an Phobail, the organizers of the annual August West Belfast music and entertainment festival. Feile had hired the college for the occasion.
"They need to answer some questions about why they chose St Mary's, knowing that it had a Catholic ethos,” said McCaffery.
He acknowledged that the college does rent its buildings to outside groups but said that the festival organizers had shown disrespect to their hosts by inviting the pro-abortion politician.
"For him to stand on the stage of a Catholic institution at the podium of the university college to speak about so called abortion rights in the north of Ireland, it shouldn't have happened and it's unacceptable,” the priest said.
McCaffery opined that using the college for an official visit from the foreign leader was "crass and showed no respect whatsoever for the Catholic community and that institution.”
A group of pro-life witnesses shouted “repent” at Varadkar when his car arrived at St. Mary’s. Referring to same-sex “marriage” and abortion among other issues, the Irish Taoiseach said any “right” enjoyed by a citizen of the Irish Republic or in Britain should be shared by people in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland, which has a significantly more church-going and pro-life society than the rest of the United Kingdom, is currently under attack for its relatively strict abortion laws. Under current legislation, Ulster allows abortion only when the mother’s life or health is endangered by remaining pregnant. As a result, abortion in Northern Ireland is rare. In 2016/17, only 13 abortions were carried out in the country.
Earlier this year, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said the country was violating women’s rights by restricting their access to abortion. The British abortion lobby, which hopes to completely decriminalize the destruction of unborn human life, wishes to impose abortion on demand on Northern Ireland.