Formula One team Mercedes have ended their sponsorship deal with the Irish-based building materials company, Kingspan.
The company, which has its headquarters in Co. Cavan, came to a 'mutual' agreement to end the deal with the F1 team following a public backlash over Kingspan's links to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in which 72 people were killed.
Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton displayed the company's logo on his helmet at Sunday's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix while it also appeared on the Mercedes cars for the first time at that race.
A statement from the F1 world champions read: "The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team and Kingspan today announced that they have mutually agreed to end their partnership.
"Announced last week, the new partnership included Kingspan chairing a new Sustainability Working Group for the team and aimed to deliver carbon reductions through their leading-edge environmentally sustainable solutions for the team's future campus.
"However, both parties have subsequently concluded that it is not appropriate for the partnership to move forward at the current point in time, notwithstanding its intended positive impact, and we have therefore agreed that it will be discontinued with immediate effect."
Grenfell United, an organisation that represents survivors and bereaved families, said the partnership was "truly shocking" and called for it to be ended.
Kingspan also has the naming rights for Breffni Park - the home of Cavan GAA - and have been in partnership with Ulster Rugby for 22 years, during which time it has become the province's principal sponsor and bought the ten-year stadium naming rights for Ravenhill.
The province cited the length of that relationship as one of the reasons they would not be cutting ties with the firm, something Grenfell United reportedly asked them to do in a letter sent almost a year ago.
According to The Irish Times, Grenfell United confirmed: "that no political support has ever been forthcoming in their campaign to get Ulster also to stop platforming Kingspan" and said that the Belfast-based club’s response to their letter did not arrive until over a month later.
Another reason Ulster gave for not ending their big-money deal with the firm was that "there would be legal issues with providing any comment or making a decision while the inquiry is still ongoing".
Kingspan's own statement responding to the Mercedes news on Wednesday read: "We are deeply aware of the sensitivities raised in recent days, and so we have jointly agreed that it's not appropriate to move forward at the current point in time.
"Much has been written about this over the past few days, and out of consideration for our customers and all the great people who work for us, we believe we must respond.
"We had no role in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment. However, our Kingspan Insulation UK business is a core participant in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and fully supports the Inquiry's important work.
"We understand that this is a complex topic, but there are some important facts that we would like to explain: 1. We did not make the exterior cladding on Grenfell Tower. The Inquiry itself has stated that "the principal reason" for rapid-fire spread on Grenfell was the Polyethylene cored ACM cladding used on the exterior of the building.
"No facade system using this PE ACM cladding, regardless of the insulation used, would have passed the necessary large-scale system fire test. Our K15 insulation board was misused in this unsafe and non-compliant system.
"2. We did not supply or recommend K15 to Grenfell Tower. K15 made up approximately 5% of the insulation layer of the façade system. It was substituted without our knowledge. 3. We have completed new tests which support the previous fire safety claims of the three historical K15 large-scale system tests which came into question during the Inquiry process.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the wholly unacceptable historical conduct and emails which emerged throughout the course of the Inquiry discovery process. We have sincerely apologised for these actions by a small group of employees at our Kingspan Insulation UK business. This in no way reflects Kingspan's culture or values."
Last April, The Guardian revealed that investors had sold off hundreds of millions of pounds worth of shares in Kingspan after coming under pressure from Grenfell United.
They included Baillie Gifford, who had been one of Kingspan’s largest shareholders, before selling an estimated £200m worth of stock in the Irish firm.
The public inquiry into the disaster, which is still ongoing, has heard that Kingspan sold its plastic foam insulation without telling customers that it had failed fire tests.
The inquiry heard one Kingspan executive responded to a contractor who pointed out the material might fuel fire in some uses by suggesting they “can go f’#ck themselves, and if they are not careful we’ll sue the a’#se of [sic] them”.
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