Iceland has been forced to apologise after one of its bosses reportedly labelled the Welsh language “gibberish”.
The supermarket, which is headquartered in Deeside in Wales, insisted that a series of statements made by the director of corporate affairs did not “reflect” the company’s views.
It is thought that the statement by Keith Hann was made in a personal blog which has now been privatised. In the same blog, it is alleged he also said that the Welsh language sounded “like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat”.
The chain has been forced to apologise after a now-deleted tweet by Mr Hann reportedly said “inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe all visitors”, referring to people travelling to Wales.
A spokesperson for Iceland has now apologised for any offence caused by the comments and say they are not reflective of the brand.
Mr Hann’s Twitter account has now been locked and a line saying “All views my own and usually joking” has been added to his bio. This was not in place at the time the comments were shared.
This is not the first time Mr Hann has been criticised for his views on the Welsh language and Wales generally.
In June 2019 he said that “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.”
In a blog post written on September 17 2014, he said that in Wales “the supermarket signage” was “incomprehensible” and kids were educated in a “dead language that sounds uncannily like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat”.
In another blog post, he regrets the fact that his house is not far from the Welsh border: “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 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 have said on social media that they will now be boycotting the chain.
One said: “This is shocking, @IcelandFoods from your Director of Corporate Affairs @keithhann! 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?”
While another 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 @IcelandFoods quite happy to come down and have a chat as hq just up the road #indywales “.
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.”