A spokesperson for McDonald’s Portugal said the ads were not intended to be an “insensitive reference to any historical event,” according to a statement emailed to CNBC on Thursday.
“We sincerely apologise for any offence or distress this may have caused,” the spokesperson added.
One social media user wrote “Portugal is cancelled,” on Twitter, while another commented: “On the scale of epic #prfail, this has to be up there with @KylieJenner’s Pepsi ad.”
This isn’t the first time a brand has referenced British and Irish unrest.
Promotional material that appeared at a small number of McDonald’s restaurants has been removed, according to the spokesperson.
In 2012, Nike apologised for nicknaming a sneaker “the Black and Tan,” which caused outrage among Irish Americans who said it referenced the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, known as the Black and Tans.
The police force, reportedly a brain child of Winston Churchill in the 1920s, was notoriously ruthless in their pursuit of Irish revolutionaries and was blamed for the killing of innocent civilians.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s had not responded to CNBC’s request for comment at the time of publication.
This story originally appeared on 7NEWS.com.au