Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has urged caution over anti-abortion protests at GP surgeries.

He said that while "everybody has a right to make a protest", GP surgeries were used by everybody for all sorts of reasons.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Dr Martin said: "With regard to protest, we have a constitution which protects freedom of expression, everybody has a right to make a protest."

"Protesting within the rule of law and the rule of the constitution, you can't be against it.

"I would be particularly cautious about protesting against GPs because everybody is going there, and people go there for all sorts of reasons.

"I'm not a person personally for protest, what the church should be doing is strengthening its resolve to help women in crisis and to educate people about the broad range."

Asked about the prospect of exclusion zones around medical facilities where abortions were being administered, Dr Martin said: "Exclusion zones have to be introduced within the realm of the constitution which allows people to protest and demonstrate."

"Protest can be legitimate, but you can't absolutise, it’s up to the Government to ensure that the various rights of people are protected."

He also voiced support for medical professionals with a conscientious objection to abortion who "clash with the law".

"Respecting the rights of conscience of individuals, even where they may come to clash with the law is a very important thing in any democracy. Where you begin to trample the rights of conscience then you're moving into a very different form of government," he said.

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Dr Martin said conscientious objectors in the medical profession might have to clash with the law, and that he hoped in such cases there would be no professional sanctions for those people.

He said he did not believe the question of abortion would be revisited in the near future, but that the church should plan a role in attempting to ensure that abortions are rare.

"One of the things in Government policy that was constantly stressed is that abortion should be rare. We have to do something to help people to make sure that that is the case, and that people who want to keep their child can do it, and can do it with dignity."

Asked about his own future, the 74-year-old Archbishop of Dublin said he was coming towards a time when it would be good for him to retire.

"It would be good, not just that I retire, but that there would be a different leadership in the church, a younger one, because we are facing very different challenges".

However he said it was up to the pope to decide when change would happen.

"Maybe when the change happens I won't like it" he said.