DUP's Jim Wells reveals reason for Kojak look
As Health Minister, Jim Wells was well used to fighting the cuts.
But now the senior DUP figure has subjected himself to the unkindest cut of all - for a good cause.
The veteran politician has had his head shaved to raise money for the Stroke Association.
"This is a charity close to my heart," he said.
Mr Wells' wife Grace is recovering from a debilitating double stroke, and will never walk again.
"There haven't been too many light moments in my life lately, but this was one of them," Mr Wells said last night.
"I haven't seen what I can now see since I was about two."
The 58-year-old former Executive minister has had quite a few close shaves over a long public career - most recently over anti-gay remarks at a public hustings event which led to his resignation from the health job.
But now, as first revealed in the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Wells is campaigning to clear his name, claiming a recording of his remarks at the event in Downpatrick was "doctored" and that he will not be charged.
But his new look raised more than a few eyebrows on social media yesterday.
Unkind contributors on Facebook claimed the Kojak style made Jim look more than a little like his Ulster Unionist predecessor as health minister, Michael McGimpsey.
Jim himself joked: "Before posting the photograph of this truly shocking incident, I had issued a warning to anyone of a nervous disposition not to view this image.
"I put up a notice on my Facebook page in advance clearly warning people once they had have recovered from viewing the devastation to my head please consider making a donation to this great charity that does so much to help those who have had a stroke and those who care for them."
The idea came after one of Jim's daughters, Laura, completed a fun run in Lisburn to raise money for the Stroke Association.
Mr Wells decided to help too and opted to be a cut above the rest with a voucher he had been given for a Turkish shave and haircut as a Father's Day present.
"I have been told by some women that it makes me look better - which is a bit worrying since it means I have been going the wrong direction for more than 50 years!" he said.
In the first 12 hours after posting his new look on social media, the South Down MLA had raised almost £300.
"I don't really have a target in mind but it would be nice if I could get to around £1,000," he said.
Mr Wells and his wife had links to the Stroke Association even before her current illness, which has left her in a Belfast hospital for six months.
"Grace and I would have gone quite a few times to Stoke Association dinners over the years and it was always a cause I admired," he said.
Mrs Wells, who turned 57 last April, has suffered two strokes, one on each side of her brain, and was diagnosed with platypnea orthodoexia syndrome - which is so rare there are only 50 cases worldwide each year.
The condition means that she has had a hole in her heart which has gone undetected but had been affecting her ability to breathe.
Six months after the first stroke, she is still in a Brain Injuries Unit but is due to be allowed home again in September.
"When I went to the hospital after getting the hair cut, Grace was unable to take her eyes off me for the whole time I was there," Mr Wells quipped.
"And this was after ignoring me for most of the 30 years of our marriage. She was staring at me in total disbelief. I have never had my hair this short."
Mr Wells admits, however, that his re-creation of Telly Savalas' tough New York cop Kojak - whose trademark prop was a lollipop - hasn't been a total success.
"There is one group of people who immediately say 'Who loves ya, baby?" which was Kojak's catchphrase and a whole other group of people who say 'Who is Kojak?'
"And of course I have taken a fair amount of stick. But do I care? I am saving a fortune in shampoo and combs."
How to make a donation
The Stroke Association is the only charity in Northern Ireland solely dedicated to stroke.
It has a total of 28 communication support programmes with a geographical spread across all five health trusts.
Donations can be made via its website, www.stroke.org.uk/donate/make-donation.
And Mr Wells also suggested: www.justgiving.com/ Laura-Hawthorne