Mercedes bruised by brief alliance with Kingspan

Grenfell fire inquiry hangs like a toxic cloud over Irish insulation maker

 Grenfell Tower

Grenfell Tower

 

Well that went well, didn’t it? It is quite incomprehensible how insulation manufacturer Kingspan did not imagine that its decision to sponsor the car of English sporting hero Lewis Hamilton could be poorly received.

Since the €4.7 million a year deal was announced just a week ago, Hamilton’s team – Mercedes AGM Petronas – has been under siege from survivors and family of the 72 victims of an horrific fire at the Grenfell tower block in London.

One of Kingspan’s insulation products has been implicated in the disaster at a subsequent inquiry, although the Cavan company has stated repeatedly that it never sanctioned, or was even aware of, its use on the refurbishment project. That inquiry is ongoing.

Hamilton, who has previously expressed solidarity with the Grenfell community, was quick to distance himself from the sponsorship.

The Grenfell Tower fire is a seminal moment in recent UK history – a tragic illustration of what can happen when builders cut corners and regulation is so light touch or under-resourced that it is effectively useless.

It may not resonate so much in Ireland but the factors behind it certainly do and, for those of a certain age, it is comparable with the Stardust blaze in Dublin that killed 48 young people and injured more than 200 back in 1981.

The sponsorship was hailed as a landmark deal just a week ago – with both sides promoting it as part of a drive to sustainability.

But who thought it was a good moment for Kingspan while the hearings of the Grenfell inquiry rumble on, featuring regularly across UK media and even in the House of Commons?

This is not some small ingenue Irish SME grabbing the chance of global attention in the glitzy world of Formula 1; Kingspan is a multinational organisation, a major player in multiple international markets for insulation. Of necessity, it is used to judging local sensitivities.

The irony is that, when it was first announced, the initial concern in Ireland was that being seen greenwashing one of the world’s most carbon intensive sports could dent Kingspan’s credibility: instead, it was the polluter, the Mercedes F1 team, that quickly realised its reputation could not sustain an association with the Irish business.

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