Irish furious over 'racist' building remark

Graham Darlow
Graham Darlow

By Emma Cropper

An alleged racial slur by Fletcher Building's chief executive has caused widespread offence in Christchurch and Ireland – with ten formal complaints lodged with the Human Rights Commission already.

Graham Darlow singled out the Irish at a media conference yesterday when he inferred they are responsible for dodgy repair work on earthquake-damaged homes.

"There may be a few that we can't find the contractor," Mr Darlow said. "Maybe they've gone out of business – maybe they've gone back to Ireland."

Irish engineer Aidan Hynes says he was shocked and hurt by Mr Darlow's comments – and he objects to the suggestion the hundreds of Irish builders who migrated to Christchurch after the earthquakes are 'cowboys'.

"I wasn't too impressed by what he said because he sort of targets all Irish builders who have a good name," Mr Hynes said.

The comment caused outrage here and in Ireland – with the remarks published in the likes of The Irish Mirror and The Journal.

There has been a furious backlash from the Irish online, and Christchurch Irish Society spokeswoman Sarah Lynch says the comments have caused widespread offence.

"People are pretty angry about it. I mean, it's all very well saying the Irish people enjoy a bit of a laugh and a bit of banter – but to be honest there's a very fine line between banter and racism," she said.

In a Fletcher Building statement, Mr Darlow apologised if his comments were interpreted as being critical of Irish builders.

"New Zealand could never have rebuilt Canterbury at this pace and to this high standard without the huge contribution of builders and contractors from Ireland and many other international countries," the statement read.

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