In recent weeks, I found myself in a fuzzy green Internet rabbit hole.

With St. Patrick's Day season upon us, I began seeing posts about Uncle O'Grimacey, a googly-eyed green character dreamed up by McDonald's back in the 1970s to help sell - you guessed it - Shamrock Shakes.

The legend of Uncle O'Grimacey - as well as his cringey green shamrock vest and diddly-aye accent - lives on on YouTube, thanks in part to the US-based nonprofit TC Media Now:

But Uncle O'Grimacey also lives on in Internet lore.

While the "Irish" McDonald's mascot is intriguing enough, I soon stumbled upon a perhaps more intriguing facet to the legend - various claims that the McDonald's character was discontinued due to his links to the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

One screenshot that's been widely shared in various forms (usually without attribution) on social media says in part: "Uncle O'Grimacey was quietly phased out of McDonald's marketing after a few years due in part to an alleged incident in Philadelphia in 1978 where the person portraying him made statements in support of the IRA and that British soldiers were better dead than alive."


oh my god

— hingo🫡 (@hingo) March 18, 2022

I turned to Google and searched "Uncle O'Grimacey IRA." I was hoping to find some old article about the alleged 1978 Uncle O'Grimacey - IRA incident, but instead found a 1997 piece from The Onion, a US-based satirical publication.

In its article "Sinn Fein Leaders Demand Year-Round Shamrock Shake Availability," The Onion said: "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.'"

Hopefully I don't need to clarify this, but, with The Onion being pure satire, this 1997 article is, obviously, in jest. (Whether or not it was in good taste is a separate conversation entirely.) 

From The Archives: Sinn Fein Leaders Demand Year-Round Shamrock Shake Availability

— The Onion (@TheOnion) March 18, 2022

My 'Uncle O'Grimacey IRA' search continued. Uncle O'Grimacey managed to lay low for two more decades before he - and his apparent IRA link - popped up in a 2017 article on PhillyVoice by Bryan Bierman.

"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," Bierman wrote in his article about Shamrock Shakes.

Bierman's claim was later cited - and wildly embellished - in a 2021 article on Odd Athenaeum, the same article that has gotten the meme treatment, unexpectedly bringing the 1970s McDonald's mascot into the 2020s realm of Internet lore.

I began to wonder if Bierman had any proof for his claim that was later spun out on Odd Athenaeum, or if it was just a tongue-in-cheek nod to the 1997 article from The Onion.

On Tuesday afternoon, I managed to track down Bierman and ask him if he had proof that Uncle O'Grimacey had IRA ties or if it was just a joke.

"NO IT IS NOT TRUE," Bierman quickly replied with a cry-laughing emoji.

(I, too, was laughing.)

"I have been trying to clear Uncle O'Grimacey's name for some time," Bierman said.

Indeed, Bierman shared with me a video he recorded in March 2023 in hopes of clarifying the situation. In his video, he explains that he received a notification that his 2017 article was referenced in a March 2023 article posted on Boing Boing.

(As it happens, the Boing Boing piece was a step ahead of me, making the connection between The Onion, Bierman's piece in PhillyVoice, and the Odd Athenaeum article last year.)

Bierman admitted in his video that he "100% made up" his 2017 line about Uncle O'Grimacey and the IRA, but that the Odd Athenaeum article "added more bulls--t." He also said he hadn't seen the 1997 satirical article from The Onion.

"It's weird that people added more information to it, which I guess is how fake news and this bulls--t starts," Bierman said, apologizing.

Bierman, who now features on the Legends of Philadelphia podcast, further told me on Tuesday: "The article it was from was a goofy junk food review series I used to do and I just made that joke thinking it would be clearly a joke but I guess it wasn't that funny because it has spread over time.

"It's probably the most impactful thing I've ever written and I didn't even mean to!"

He continued: "What I guess happened was another website added more fake details to the story which made it spread.

"It's insane, when you search Uncle O'Grimacey on Google the next thing that comes up is IRA.

“I feel bad for what I've done.

"I have left comments on articles about it before but maybe they think I'm just a nut."

Bierman added: "Thank you for helping Uncle O'Grimacey, he didn't deserve that."

There ya have it, folks. Uncle O'Grimacey was never in the IRA - at least, as far as we know, anyway.