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Guinness to pull Six Nations ads over immigrant offence concerns

Billboards read: ‘You Don’t Pick A Side. Your Grandparents Have Done That Already’

‘You don’t pick a side...’ Photograph: Mark Tighe/The Times, Ireland edition

Guinness is to pull a number of billboard adverts put up ahead of Ireland’s rugby match against England after admitting they may cause “offence or confusion” to immigrants or families with diverse backgrounds.

The Six Nations ads, which drew criticism from the Immigrant Council of Ireland, say: “You Don’t Pick A Side. Your Grandparents Have Done That Already.”

The Immigrant Council of Ireland took to Twitter to call for the company to go “back to the drawing board” adding that it “can see the sentiment, but it doesn’t celebrate the strength of the Irish team (& wider society) or the huge benefit our diversity brings.”

A number of players on the Ireland team are from overseas or descended from immigrants.

Guinness, which sponsors the Six Nations tournament, said it would replace the billboards at a number of locations around Dublin within days, the Times, Ireland edition reported on Saturday.

“The billboard was meant to show the competitive nature of the Guinness Six Nations,” a spokeswoman for parent company Diageo said.

“It was to convey the passion with which people follow the team they support, be it because of where they were born, where they live or familial ties as well as the heightened intensity of these rivalries due to the proximity and history of the competing countries.

“We regret if the billboard caused offence or confusion. This was absolutely not our intention.”

The company’s spokeswoman said diversity and inclusion are core values, and pointed to its work with the Immigrant Council of Ireland on diversity programmes.

“We are grateful to them for the feedback,” she said. “We believe their point is a strong one and we will swap out the advertising for other copy next week.”

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said “fair play to Guinness for recognising the strength diversity provides the Irish team and its supporters and reconsidering their posters.”