Peer’s call follows collapse of firm’s deal with F1 team over Grenfell fire
Former UK Minister for Sport Kate Hoey has urged Ulster Rugby to “clarify their position” over their title sponsor Kingspan’s involvement with the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Northern Irish life peer’s comments come following Mercedes’ decision to end its sponsorship deal with Kingspan, saying it is “not appropriate” to continue the partnership.
The Irish building material company’s logo appeared on Lewis Hamilton’s car at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday, causing outrage after it emerged that Kingspan’s K15 insulation was one of the products installed in Grenfell Tower, where 72 people were killed in a fire in June 2017. The firm is now being examined as part of an inquiry into how Grenfell Tower came to be coated in flammable materials which contributed to the spread of flames.
However, Kingspan said it “played no role in the design of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower” where its product “constituted approximately 5% of the insulation and was used as a substitute product without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that was not compliant with the building’s regulations”.
Ulster Rugby has repeatedly told the Belfast Telegraph that it will not be making any comment in relation to its corporate relationship with Kingspan whilst the Grenfell Tower inquiry is ongoing. But Baroness Kate Hoey believes “it’s important that Ulster Rugby clarify to the public their position on this, as clearly there is a growing campaign about Kingspan’s involvement”.
Nicola Browne, co-ordinator of NI campaign group Act Now, said a petition calling on Ulster Rugby to end its lead sponsorship was attracting hundreds of signatures.
“Hundreds of people in Northern Ireland, including their own supporters, are getting behind Act Now’s call for Ulster Rugby to end this sponsorship deal now and stop whitewashing Kingspan’s image, which is prolonging the pain of the Grenfell families. They need to take action now,” she said.
In a statement, Mercedes said that the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team and Kingspan “mutually agreed” to end the partnership “with immediate effect”.
Last week, Sir Lewis Hamilton also insisted he had “nothing to do with the team signing any of the sponsors”, adding that he understood team principal Toto Wolff was “sorting” it.
UK Communities Secretary Michael Gove had previously said the Government could amend advertising rules on racing cars if the company didn’t pull the partnership with Kingspan, but he has still not acknowledged Ulster Rugby’s affiliation with the firm.
On Wednesday, Mr Gove tweeted: “I am glad Mercedes listened to @GrenfellUnited’s dignified representations and ended their sponsorship deal with Kingspan.”
Grenfell United, a group of survivors and family members, also welcomed the decision.
“We met with Toto Wolff and shared the facts from the Grenfell Inquiry and Mercedes came to their own conclusion,” its statement read.
“They have shown that people can be put before profit.”
In their own statement, Kingspan stressed the reciprocal nature of the decision, saying both had “jointly agreed that it’s not appropriate to move forward at the current point in time”.
The firm was contacted for comment, but said it has nothing to state in specific relation to its dealings with Ulster Rugby, who have said they will not be making any comment at this time.