Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has called for honesty and courage from politicians on how they deal with abortion issues.
He said he felt there was an attempt to long-finger debate on reform of the eighth amendment to the constitution and urged voters to demand answers and not spin from candidates.
He made the call as Ireland’s bishops issued a pre-election statement warning that a blame game is not the answer to the crisis in the health sector.
They also urged voters to challenge candidates on issues related to housing, crime, education and the refugee and migrant crisis.
On abortion, Archbishop Martin declined to advise people which party they should back at the polls.
“It’s not my job or the bishops’ job to say the guidance is you must vote for this party or that party,” he told RTE Radio.
“You cannot pretend to be a Catholic and leave aside a very vital part of Catholic teaching but the individual makes that decision.”
The bishops said they “strongly oppose any weakening of the affirmation of the right to life of the unborn”.
Fine Gael supports a constitutional convention on the eighth amendment before a referendum could be held. Labour backs a referendum, as does Sinn Fein, while Fianna Fail said it will not campaign as a party to repeal the amendment.
The Archbishop raised concerns about manifestos and election pledges in the heat of the campaign and political expediency on the abortion issue.
“Let politicians have the courage also to say where they stand up on this issue,” he said.
“I would hope that politicians themselves would be very honest and that citizens and voters would ask them about this and we have clarity rather than spin.”
He said it was not the place of bishops to dictate a programme for government but criticised “auction politics”, warning it was not reality.
“We share the anxiety of many citizens in Ireland at the fact that there is an uncertain social climate in the country regarding vital sectors of people’s lives, especially regarding health, homes, education, security, the fostering of a solid human ecology, and international responsibility,” the bishops said in their statement.
On health they warned that people worry about getting ill, or their children, parents or elderly people falling sick, along with the cost and quality of care.
“Successive governments have presented a variety of solutions and in so many cases they have either failed or have not been implemented. A blame game is not the answer. Ireland’s health crisis is the result of a fundamental failure of politics,” they said.
They added that there is a crisis of homelessness, while o n education, they said the real inequality in schools is not because of religion but economics, with disadvantaged communities not supported as well as better off communities.
On crime, the bishops said recent gangland murders are a result of a criminal industry of death from drugs, while on the refugee crisis they called for people to reciprocate the welcome Irish emigrants have received.