McDonald's apologizes after 'culturally tone deaf' menu item sparks outrage

McDonald's has issued a formal apology after announcing a Halloween-themed menu item that some customers believed invoked a historical tragedy.

The dish, a dessert offered at the restaurant's Portugal locations, was advertised as "Sundae Bloody Sundae," which apparently featured a blood-red ice cream topping.

"Bloody Sunday" is also the name of a 1972 massacre in Northern Ireland. The tragic incident, which took place during the period of conflict known as "The Troubles," resulted in the British army killing 13 people and wounding 15 more.

Many social media users said they found the wording offensive, with one Irish Twitter user posting a photo of the promotion with the caption, "Portugal is cancelled."

"[McDonald's is] culturally tone deaf," another user replied to the Tweet, which has now received thousands of likes and retweets.

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" is also the name of a widely famous song by the Irish band U2. That track, released in 1983, is a direct reference to the 1972 massacre.

"Tasteless, like their burgers," another Twitter user said of the ad.

The tweet pointing out the promotion was posted on Wednesday, and by Thursday evening McDonald's had issued a statement saying the advertisements had been taken down. The company also issued a statement apologizing for the wording.

"We sincerely apologize for any offense or distress this may have caused," McDonald's Portugal said in a statement.

"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," a company spokesperson told the BBC.

This isn't the first time that a company has received backlash for referencing Irish history. In 2013, a bar in London was forced to apologize after serving a "Bloody Sunday" cocktail, which came with a toy soldier.