Iceland apologises for insulting Welsh people amid threats of boycott

Furious shoppers have vowed to boycott Iceland after one of its bosses called the Welsh language ‘gibberish’.

Iceland’s corporate affairs boss Keith Hann also said Welsh sounded ‘like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat’ in an old personal blog post which recently resurfaced on Twitter.

Outrage began when father-of-two Mr Hann said ‘inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe all visitors’ – referring to people travelling to Wales – in a tweet which has since been deleted.

Iceland has insisted that his statements do not ‘reflect’ the company’s views.

The supermarket’s headquarters, where Mr Hann works, is situated in Deeside in Wales – but he lives in Cheshire, just two miles over the Welsh border in England.

Iceland apologises for insulting Welsh people amid threats of boycott

Mr Hann (pictured) also said Welsh sounded 'like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat' in a now-deleted personal blog post, critics claim

Iceland has been forced to apologise after its corporate affairs boss Keith Hann (pictured) was accused of calling the Welsh language ‘gibberish’

Iceland's headquarters, where Mr Hann works, is situated in Deeside in Wales - but he lives in Cheshire, just two miles over the Welsh border in England

Iceland’s headquarters, where Mr Hann works, is situated in Deeside in Wales – but he lives in Cheshire, just two miles over the Welsh border in England

And, in a since-removed tweet, Mr Hann said 'inhabitants of the UK's Celtic fringe loathe all visitors', referring to people travelling to Wales

And, in a since-removed tweet, Mr Hann said ‘inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe all visitors’, referring to people travelling to Wales

Just days ago, Mr Hann wrote on Twitter: ‘Your periodic reminder that the inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe ALL visitors, in or out of lockdown, and that you should definitely bear this in mind when contemplating a summer holiday booking.’

Amid the fury sparked by Mr Hann’s comment, Twitter users shared archived extracts of his blog posts to Twitter. The blog has since been deleted.

In a blog post written on September 17, 2014, he said that Welsh ‘supermarket signage’ was ‘incomprehensible’.

What has Iceland boss Keith Hann said about Welsh people?

2009 – In a blog post written in 2009, Iceland’s corporate affairs boss Keith Hann – who lives in Cheshire – said if he moved over the border his son ‘would be having part of his education conducted in gibberish’

He also wrote:’I regret to say that we are also only about two miles from Wales, thanks to the border lurching east from the natural boundary of the River Dee, and taking a bite out of England that can only have been designed for the convenience of manufacturers of jigsaw puzzles.’

2014 – In a blog post written on September 17, 2014, he said that Welsh ‘supermarket signage’ was ‘incomprehensible’.

He also said children were educated in a ‘dead language that sounds uncannily like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat’.

2019 – In June 2019 he said: ‘I’d like to say that I have never left England, but regular attendance at an office about 800 yards inside Wales sadly precludes this.

‘Still, I take pride in never visiting Scotland despite having a home within sight of the border.’

2021 – Mr Hann tweeted: ‘Your periodic reminder that the inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe ALL visitors, in or out of lockdown, and that you should definitely bear this in mind when contemplating a summer holiday booking.’

He also said children were educated in a ‘dead language that sounds uncannily like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat’.

In another blog post, he wrote: ‘I regret to say that we are also only about two miles from Wales, thanks to the border lurching east from the natural boundary of the River Dee, and taking a bite out of England that can only have been designed for the convenience of manufacturers of jigsaw puzzles.’

He also added that if he moved over the border that his son ‘would be having part of his education conducted in gibberish’.

In June 2019 he said: ‘I’d like to say that I have never left England, but regular attendance at an office about 800 yards inside Wales sadly precludes this.

‘Still, I take pride in never visiting Scotland despite having a home within sight of the border.’

He also called a Welsh landmark ‘unpronounceable hall’.

Mr Hann’s Twitter account has since been made private and his bio reads: ‘All views my own and usually joking.’

This was not in place at the time the comments were shared.

Several Twitter users contacted Iceland asking for them to take action against Mr Hann, promoting the store to release a statement in reply.

It read: ‘Please be assured that the comments you refer to do not reflect the views of Iceland as a company, and were not made on Iceland’s behalf.

‘We apologise for any upset or offence caused.’

In 2018, protestors from Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) disrupted the official opening of a new branch in Rhyl over Iceland’s English-only signage policy.

Several shoppers took to social media to criticise Mr Hann – with some vowing to boycott the chain over his comments.

One said: ‘This is shocking, Iceland, from your Director of Corporate Affairs Keith Hann!

‘Insulting Welsh language and Wales itself. I’ve always felt loyal to the company being a former employee but will be boycotting you along with friends and family.

‘What next steps will you take?’

Another critic said: ‘Boycott Iceland foods, to say this about a Welsh company makes me sick but it is a disgrace.

And no, we know it is not meant as a joke as he has a track record of anti-welsh utterances.

Mr Hann's Twitter account has now been made private and his bio reads: 'All views my own and usually joking'

Mr Hann’s Twitter account has now been made private and his bio reads: ‘All views my own and usually joking’

The supermarket insisted that his statements do not 'reflect' the company's views. Pictured: Iceland's headquarters in Deeside

The supermarket insisted that his statements do not ‘reflect’ the company’s views. Pictured: Iceland’s headquarters in Deeside

‘Iceland, quite happy to come down and have a chat as HQ just up the road.’

Iceland has more than 1,000 shops across the UK.

An Iceland spokesperson said: ‘Iceland is aware of comments made by our director of corporate affairs and the upset which these have caused.

‘These comments are not reflective in any way of Iceland’s views or philosophy as a company, and were not made on the company’s behalf.

‘We are proud to be based in Wales, as a major investor and employer in the country. The matter is being dealt with internally and we apologise for any upset or offence caused.’

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