20 Aug 2015

Fletcher Construction CEO sorry for offending Irish

6:36 pm on 20 August 2015

The chief executive of Fletcher Construction has apologised for comments which have sparked outrage in the Irish community.

The foundations of a Christchurch home, which have to be repaired for a second time.

The foundations of one of the affected Christchurch homes, which will now have to be repaired for a second time. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Graham Darlow.

Fletcher Construction CEO Graham Darlow Photo: Fletcher Construction

At a news conference yesterday, Graham Darlow said there might be instances where Fletcher could not contact the builders responsible for sub-standard earthquake repairs, because they had gone out of business or gone back to Ireland.

His comments, which were picked up by at least two Irish media outlets, have caused outrage in the Irish community, with many taking to social media to complain.

Mr Darlow said he apologised if his comments were interpreted as being critical of builders of Irish descent.

He said New Zealand could never have rebuilt Canterbury at this pace, and to such a high standard, without the contribution of builders from Ireland and other countries.

Shane Montague-Gallagher, who weighed into the online discussion, said if it was about any other minority or race, more would be being done.

"He's pretty much saying he is sorry that people are offended, he is not acknowledging the fact he said something racist."

Mr Gallagher said the constant comments about Irish people are starting to get out of hand.

"The fact he is in a position of power and in a leadership position and he can not figure out that he made a racist comment is beyond me."

The honorary consul-general for Ireland in Auckland, Niamh McMahon, called Mr Darlow personally.

She said she wanted to "hear the words that he was sorry" and he was truly apologetic, so she was satisfied.

Christchurch Irish Society president Sean Regan said it was the combination of the words and what he described as the smirk on Mr Darlow's face that made it unacceptable.

"I was horrified when I heard it."

Mr Regan said there were many ethnicities in Christchurch for the rebuild, and if the comment had been made about a non-Caucasian group, Mr Darlow would have been out of a job by now.

He said Mr Darlow needed to make a public apology and explain what he meant by the comment.

The news conference yesterday followed the release of a government report into structural repairs in Canterbury.

It found 32 of the 90 homes surveyed did not meet the building code, while a further 23 had defects.

Most of the work that did not meet the building code involved a controversial repair method known as jack and pack, where material is packed between the floor and foundations to help relevel houses.

The Earthquake Commission now has to recheck about 3500 dwellings and estimates about 1200 will need to be repaired a second time.

Fletcher has promised to pick up the tab for any work that the original builders are unable or unwilling to do, and has estimated this will cost it about $500,000.

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