UK Housing Secretary Michael Gove has accused insulation company Kingspan of trying to “wriggle out of their responsibilities” in relation to the Grenfell Tower fire as he blamed the firm for giving capitalism “a bad name”.
Mr Gove welcomed the news this week that Ulster Rugby’s sponsorship deal with the Irish company will end, describing involvement with Kingspan as “inappropriate”.
Kingspan products were used in the west London tower block, where 72 people were killed in a fire in 2017.
The building materials company has long said that its K15 insulation product made up only 5% of the insulation in the tower block, and was used without its recommendation.
It has also said that the exterior cladding, which it did not manufacture, was deemed by the inquiry to be the “principal reason” for how quickly the fire spread.
But Mr Gove told BBC Northern Ireland that Kingspan had “consistently evaded their responsibilities”.
He said: “We know that there are developers, people who were actually responsible for buildings, who have contributed (to remediation works) and I’m grateful to them and grateful to builders and developers across the United Kingdom for making a contribution.
“But Kingspan continue, I’m afraid, to evade their responsibilities.
“And the idea that they can say that their products were used inappropriately, I’m afraid, is part of a pattern of behaviour on their part where they will not fully acknowledge their responsibility to the victims of this tragedy.”
Mr Gove wrote to Ulster Rugby on Wednesday to welcome news its relationship with Kingspan would end on a phased basis by June 2025.
The Cavan-based company is also associated with its county ground, Breffni Park, which became known as Kingspan Breffni in 2002 in a naming rights deal.
Ulster Rugby had faced criticism for their continuing association with the firm, and Mr Gove said that while he was “grateful” that “the right decision” had been made, it should have come earlier.
Grenfell United, a group representing bereaved and survivors of the disaster, said they had been “sickened” by the ongoing partnership and thanked local sports fans for their support during their campaign.
In the letter to Ulster Rugby, Mr Gove accused Kingspan of having done “nothing to contribute financially to the remediation costs required to fix unsafe buildings”.
He told BBC NI: “I’ve had enough of Kingspan trying to wriggle out of their responsibilities.
“I’ve been clear with Ulster Rugby, and with others, that this is a company that gives capitalism a bad name. So the fact that they are trying to minimise their involvement shows that they still just don’t get it.”
He said he has a simple message for Kingspan: “You can wriggle as much as you like, but the evidence is clear.
“You have got to own up to your responsibility. We cannot have people who put unsafe products on the market attempting to say ‘do you know what? it’s someone else’s fault’. That does not do.”
Kingspan has been contacted for comment.