Attempts are being made to save the sole surviving Popemobile used by the Pope John Paul II during his 1979 visit to Ireland from being dismantled.
OBAM Vehicle Builders Limited of Blackstone Bridge in Cork were commissioned by Henry Ford and Son Limited to build two mobiles for the papal visit by Pope John Paul II in 1979. Ford's contribution to the cost of the vehicles came to £35,000. The company also made a commitment to the clergy that it would not allow anyone use the Popemobile for financial gain.
Director and general sales manager of Ford Ireland Enda Hogan says the company is concerned about the future of the Popemobile,
We’re very anxious that it will find a place which will give it will due respect.
The Ford Company is seeking to have the Popemobile dismantled so it can recoup the valuable cab and engine, which it gave to be used in the vehicle during the Papal visit. Enda Hogan believes this is permissible because the essence of the Popemobile is the coach in which the Pope stood and not the truck itself.
The smaller of the two mobiles which was used at Knock, has already been scrapped. OBAM directors John Mulhare and Pat O'Brien are reluctant to see the destruction of their remaining vehicle. Due to an intervention by the Most Reverend Dr Bishop Lucey of Cork, the demolition is on hold.
Monsignor James Horan of Knock has also become involved in the demolition issue, saying the Popemobile could be kept by the Irish people without anyone gaining commercially from it. He has also commented that Ford has benefited from Ireland and it could show appreciation by giving the Popemobile to the nation.
Enda Hogan agrees that Ford has done well from Ireland but also contributes significantly,
We’ve put a lot into Ireland and we’re continuing to put a lot into Ireland.
He has no problem with the suggestion that the Popemobile should be preserved as a memento of a unique occasion. He believes that it should be kept in a central location where as many people as possible can see it. Ultimately however this decision has to be made the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich.
This episode of 'Ireland's Eye' was broadcast on 3 March 1981. The reporter is Pat Butler.