United Kingdom

Executive sacked by Iceland reveals he received death threats

Corporate affairs boss Keith Hann, 66, was axed from his £102,000-a-year job last week after shoppers threatened to boycott the High Street chain's Welsh stores in protest.  

He described the ancient tongue as 'a dead language that sounds uncannily like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat.'

The father-of-two later 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.  

Corporate affairs boss Keith Hann, 66, was axed from his £102,000-a-year job last week after shoppers threatened to boycott the High Street chain's Welsh stores in protest 

Writing for Voice of the North, Mr Hann suggested the latter comment was made in a bid to 'make people smile on Twitter,' adding that the 'cancel culture that is sadly becoming the norm in the UK is plain wrong.'

The author also confessed that a day after the historic comments emerged, he was 'fully occupied blocking and muting personal abuse from those expressing their determination to have me prosecuted for racism, to push excrement through my letterbox, and in one case to seek me out and kill me.' 

It was a day later that Mr Hann said Iceland, 'besieged by furious callers and social media posts', decided it could 'no longer continue our long association.'

The Welsh-based frozen food giant insisted last week that Mr Hann's statements do not 'reflect' the company's views. 

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

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

'We are a proud Welsh company, with a long history of investment in communities across Wales, and apologise for any upset or offence caused.'   

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

Outrage began when 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.' 

Mr Hann explained this produced an 'immediate kickback demanding to know whether this represented Iceland Foods' view of their Scottish and Welsh customers,' to which he claims he replied: 'Of course it didn't.' 

The former executive claims he then deleted the tweets and 'moved on', as it was his son's ninth birthday and 'I would be much better employed celebrating then in spending my time arguing on Twitter.'     

Mr Hann's Twitter account has now been made private and, immediately after the outrage, his bio had read: 'All views my own and usually joking'. This has since been removed

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

However, the next day Mr Hann said he was 'confronted with a dossier... seeking to prove that I was a lifelong anti-Welsh bigot.' 

Historic comments were ultimately unearthed in which Mr Hann 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'.

Budget store Iceland, which is headquartered in Deeside, North Wales, at first said it was dealing with the matter 'internally' and Mr Hann apologised, saying the 'humorous' views were all his own.

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.

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.'

February 2021 - Iceland confirm they have sacked executive Mr Hann.

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'.

In another 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'. 

Mr Hann also called a Welsh landmark 'unpronounceable hall'.

Responding to the criticism, Mr Hann explained many of the comments had come from a Newcastle Journal column he wrote weekly for around a decade. He had then archived the comments in a personal blog he says ended in 2015.

He said: 'I wrote this weekly column for the best part of a decade, dispensing knockabout fun in the style of a very poor man's Rod Liddle, and making jokes at the expense of a pretty comprehensive range of people and places – though chiefly to the detriment of myself.

'I had archived the columns in a personal blog that ended in 2015 and which I had not looked at for almost as long. 

'Nor had anyone else, to judge by the visitor tracker, but interest now shot up as people trawled through this and another personal blog, mainly about my disastrous love life, looking for things that they could claim to be offended by.'       

He said that he understands his humour is 'not to everyone's taste', adding that he 'constantly sees and reads things that I personally find offensive.'

'I think it is reasonable to expect a right of reply, but I would never demand that anyone to be forced to stop saying these things to spare my feelings,' he said.  

'The "cancel culture" that is sadly becoming the norm in the UK is plain wrong. No one should be deprived of their livelihood, and potentially driven to take their life, by making a joke that others do not find funny.'   

Later in the response - entitled 'How trying to be funny cost me my job' - Mr Hann explained he has many fond memories of weekends spent in Wales. 

He added that he has also discovered over the past week that many Welsh people 'share my view that growing overt hostility to visitors poses a threat to their tourist economy.'    

Mr Hann's Twitter account has since been made private and, immediately after the fallout, his bio had read: 'All views my own and usually joking.' 

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

'We apologise for any upset or offence caused.

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