Iceland boss sacked after branding Welsh language 'gibberish'

Iceland have sacked a company director who branded the Welsh language ‘gibberish’, after furious shoppers vowed to boycott the supermarket.

The store’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.

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

But later a spokeswoman said: ‘Iceland has taken action in light of recent comments made by its Director of Corporate Affairs, resulting in the dismissal of Mr Hann with immediate effect.

‘We would like to reiterate that these comments in no way reflect the values or philosophy of our business. We are a proud Welsh company, with a long history of investment in communities across Wales, and apologise for any upset or offence caused.’

Mr Hann, 66, also released a statement saying the ‘humorous’ views were all his own.

The comments came to light after the Newcastle-born senior manager 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. 

It sparked backlash with people on social media proceeding to dig up archived extracts of other comments he has made about Wales and its language.

In a 2014 blog post that has since been made private, Mr Hann said that ‘supermarket signage’ in Wales was ‘incomprehensible’ and that children were educated in a ‘dead language that sounds uncannily like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat’.

In another post, he said he regrets the fact that his house is not far from the Welsh border.

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. 

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

In another blog post from 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.’

Another Tweet said one ‘bonus’ of lockdown would be that he wouldn’t be ‘travelling from home in Cheshire to my office in Wales every day’.

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

The store 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.’

Father-of-two Mr Hann also issued an apology and reiterated Iceland’s status as ‘one of the largest companies based in Wales, and a major investor and employer in the country.’

He said all of the posts ‘were written by me in a personal capacity and are not endorsed by Iceland Foods or reflective of the company’s views.

‘I would have hoped it was also obvious that all of these were written with humorous intent,’ he said.

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