Did McDonald's change their Shamrock Shake mascot because of the IRA?

The furry green fry fella known as Uncle O'Grimacey was introduced into the fantastical world of McDonaldsland in 1975. McDonald's had introduced the limited-edition green Shamrock Shake only 8 years earlier, and it proved to be so popular that in fact the shake alone was responsible for funding the very first Ronald McDonald House.

Naturally, the best way to celebrate this success was to round out the Grimace's already weirdly large extended family with a new Oirish uncle, wielding his shillelagh, sure n' begorrah!

But what ever happened to that furry green anthropomorphic tastebud? His last known public appearance was in 1986. The McDonaldsland Fandom Wiki yields little information — but some clues can be found in the comments at the end of the article:

As the Philadelphia Voice reported in 2017:

Although the character appeared in television commercials for a few years in the '70s and early '80s, Uncle O'Grimacey was let go shortly after because of his controversial ties to the IRA.

Curiously, that very same year, McDonaldsland ran an ad campaign for the shamrock shake that replaced Uncle O'Grimacey with a man dressed in a Scottish tartan playing the shake like a Scottish bagpipe in front of the English landmark known as Stonehenge — which is impressively even more culturally insulting than a walking green tastebud bellowing "top o' the mornin'!" in his stereotypical brogue.

The website Odd Athaneum claimed that it was actually one of the actors portraying Uncle O'Grimacey — presumably in a public appearance, not the ones who played him in the commercials — who "made statements in support of the IRA and that British soldiers were better dead than alive." However, the supporting link for this claim goes back to aforementioned 2017 article from the Philadelphia Voice.

If anything, the source for this alleged IRA controversy seems to be an Onion article from March 1997 (coincidentally about a year and a month before the passing of the Good Friday Agreement):

The Irish Republican Army announced Monday that it will embark on the most aggressive campaign of violence in its history if McDonald's Shamrock Shakes are not made available year-round.


In a videotaped statement from an IRA safehouse somewhere near Belfast, Uncle O'Grimacey, the most radical member of the Grimace family, demanded the immediate loosening of Shamrock Shake restrictions throughout Northern Ireland. "Release the shakes to us at once," O'Grimacey said, "or the lives of your children will be forfeit." 

McDonald's shake representative Grimace was quick to distance himself from his IRA-member uncle. "All shakes in their time is my watchword, and certain flavors all year," Grimace said. "O'Grimacey is a radical Grimace acting without the approval of the McDonald's corporation."

In the article, a fictional version of Gerry Adams also calls for the release of the "Shamrock Seven," a group of radical Shamrock Shake activists who were wrongly imprisoned in 1983 for the bombing of a McDonald's Anglican Shake factory in England. Honestly, this Onion piece really commits to the bit, and genuinely made me laugh out loud more than once.

Of course none of that actually explains what happened with Uncle O'Grimacey. But it did make for a good excuse to make the above mash-up video with scion of the Shamrock Shake singing "Come Out, Ye Black and Tans" with his nephew, The Grimace, and his nephew's Irish-American friend, Ronald McDonald. But really I just wanted to plug that my new Irish Folk Rock album, Forfocséic, Vol. 3: Love & War is now streaming everywhere, and you can check it out on Bandcamp or Spotify or Apple Music or Amazon Music or Deezer or wherever else.

But also it is pretty interesting that Uncle O'Grimacey has so many connections to Philadelphia, the city that gave us Gritty. And I don't think anyone's ever mentioned anything about Gritty's parentage…

Sinn Fein Leaders Demand Year-Round Shamrock Shake Availability [The Onion]

Bad For You – McDonald's Chocolate Shamrock Shake [Bryan Bierman / Philadelphia Voice]

Remembering Uncle O'Grimacey, McDonald's Bizarre Shamrock Shake Mascot [Dan O'Keefe / Guilty Eats]