Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson is facing harsh criticism for a racist remark he made at the Icelandic Farmers’ Association annual conference last week. Opposition MPs and the public have criticised the remark, some suggesting that the minister should resign. Sigurður Ingi, who is also chairman of the Progressive Party, has published a written apology on his Facebook page and has declined making further comment on the incident.
DV reported that during a photo-op at the conference last week, Sigurður Ingi referred to Vigdís Häsler, CEO of the Icelandic Farmers’ Association, as “the black one.” Vigdís is Icelandic but was originally adopted from Indonesia. Sigurður Ingi’s assistant originally denied the minister had made the comment, calling it “utter nonsense.” After Vigdís published a Facebook post on the incident, however, Sigurður Ingi also published a written apology for making the remark.
Criticism from opposition and public
The minister has received harsh criticism from the public, many of whom have called on him to resign, stating that such remarks are unacceptable from a minister. Opposition MPs have also criticised Sigurður Ingi. Pirate Party MP Halldóra Mogensen stated in Parliament that his remark could be considered a breach of law. Reform Party MP addressed the Prime Minister, asking if she did not consider it obvious that Sigurður Ingi’s remark was a breach of MPs and Ministers’ codes of conduct.
Government ministers respond
In her response to the opposition, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that Sigurður Ingi’s apology indicated that the remark had been unacceptable and should not have been said. “I don’t dispute the words of the CEO of the Icelandic Farmers’ Association in this matter but we must also be able to accept it when people apologise,” Katrín stated.
When asked about Sigurður Ingi’s remark following a cabinet meeting today, Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson referred to it as “just a very unfortunate incident.” Neither he nor Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir would comment on whether they felt Sigurður Ingi should resign due to the comment. Sigurður Ingi declined to answer any questions about the incident, pointing instead to his Facebook post.
Vigdís has stated that she will make no further comment on the incident.