Britain’s top supermarket trade magazine has called on Iceland to “embrace its Welshness” after the sacking of Director of Corporate Affairs Keith Hann.
The Grocer said that the supermarket, which is one of Wales’ largest companies, should treat the furore as a “watershed moment” and put up bilingual signs at its stores.
Keith Hann was sacked from his £100,000 a year job after calling the Welsh language “gibberish” and saying it was “like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat”.
A spokesperson for Iceland apologised for the “offence caused” by Hann’s remarks, reiterated that they do not “reflect” its values and said the dismissal will take “immediate effect”.
But a column by one of The Grocer’s editors said that Iceland “needs to treat the sacking of Hann as a watershed moment in its history, in which it fully embraces its Welshness”.
“It’s in a unique position: the only national Welsh supermarket chain, and it should be proud of it,” the fresh foods editor Kevin White wrote.
“Iceland has history when it comes to the Welsh language,” the article said, which was “all the more remarkable given that Iceland is, of course, based in Wales”.
“Iceland’s respect for the Welsh language has long been called into question – most recently in 2018, when it rejected calls to use bilingual signage in its stores because they would ‘add complexity and cost to our operations’,” the editorial said.
“And that’s despite the fact that all of its English-based competitors have found the time and money to do so.”
The Grocer suggests that a good starting point would be agreeing to Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s demands to add bilingual signage in its stores: “Doing so could be the start of resetting the conversation. In Welsh, of course.”
Cymdeithas yr Iaith, which has been campaigning for bilingual signage at Iceland stores, had alrrady called on the supermarket to go a step further and make changes to show its commitment to the Welsh language.
David Williams of Cymdeithas yr Iaith said: “Keith Hann’s comments are insulting and unfortunate, but sacking someone doesn’t make up for the fact that Iceland’s Welsh provision for customers is currently very poor.
“What about making a real commitment to the language – how about providing services fully in Welsh in the near future?”
The supermarket has already said that it is “reviewing its approach” to providing bilingual signage in stores across Wales.