McDonald’s Portugal apologizes for sundae promotion, poor grasp of history

Illustration for article titled McDonald’s Portugal apologizes for sundae promotion, poor grasp of history
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You may think the classic U2 song “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” is just another catchy song about politics in the general sense, made glamorous though the vocals of an angsty (and sexy!) rock star. After all, the song was written in 1983, and its real meaning, for many, has gotten lost over time. For those who live in Ireland and Great Britain, though, it’s a song about one of their most tragic national events of the last half-century: Bloody Sunday, also known as The Bogside Massacre. On Sunday, January 30, 1972, British soldiers shot 28 unarmed Catholic protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 14, causing a stampede that injured dozens more, and escalating the low-level war referred to as “The Troubles” which lasted till 1998 and claimed more than 3,500 lives. Bloody Sunday was a very, very serious situation, and absolutely no one should try to get cute with it. McDonald’s didn’t see it that way, though, which is why this “spooky” Halloween promotion happened in Portugal:


After a backlash, McDonald’s Portugal discontinued the promotion and removed all offensive signage from its restaurants. In a statement to The Guardian, it said: “When promoting its Halloween Sundae ice cream, McDonald’s Portugal developed a local market activation for a small number of its restaurants in Portugal. The campaign was intended as a celebration of Halloween, not as an insensitive reference to any historical event or to upset or insult anyone in any way. We sincerely apologise for any offence or distress this may have caused.”

This brouhaha makes one wonder: how long does it take for tragedy to fade away to the point where it can become a commodity? As CNN points out, a bar in London, where people really should know better, created a Sunday Bloody Sunday cocktail in 2013, served with a small toy soldier. (The bar removed the cocktail from the menu and apologized.) But there are popular and uncontroversial American cocktails like the Black and Tan and the Irish Car Bomb that directly reference other tragic elements of the Troubles. What about sliding up to a bar and ordering a Kamikaze? Memorial Day, meant to be a solemn day to honor our nation’s fallen soldiers, turned into a weekend that’s all about beaches, barbecues, and big, big sales. It’s been nearly 20 years since 9/11 happened, and it’s slowly becoming a marketing tool for brands. Same with breast cancer. What do you guys think?

Allison Robicelli is a writer, recipe czar, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Tweet me for recipe help: @Robicellis.


Black and Tans and Irish Car Bombs are only “uncontroversial” if you stick to places that don’t care about them. There are a number of bars in the US with Irish immigrant staff and/or customers who would not appreciate either of those being ordered.

Related, though non-food related (I’m sticking to sports), I always liked this story - there was a UFC fighter named Marcus Davis who went by the nickname ‘The Irish Hand Grenade’ (he was from Maine, but of Irish descent).  However, when he fought at UFC 72 in Belfast (Northern Ireland, not Maine), he switched his nickname to the Celtic Warrior to avoid the negative connotations.  I always thought that was pretty cool and a respectful thing to do.