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O'Neill 'blonde' row is hair-raising stuff

I awoke today to a new crisis in Northern Ireland: Arlene Foster had described Michelle O'Neill as "blonde".

Apparently, this description is anything but nice, if you believe the Twitterati. Who would have thought it? It's a minefield, it seems.

Well, I had to see for myself, so I opened a picture of Michelle O'Neill and there was a woman who, to me, had - how can I put this without causing offence? - blonde hair. But, then, I'm a bloke, so what do I know?

I asked Google and found there's no such thing as just plain 'blonde'. There's the insult; Arlene didn't recognise the shade.

A second opinion always helps. My wife would know about these things. After a look at the picture and a puzzled squint, she declared "blonde, but lighter than me". "Would you mind if I described you as 'blonde'?" I asked. "I'd be amazed you'd notice," she said and, with a "you know I'm right" look, she was gone.

So, I now had it confirmed by someone who carries the same burden every day. The evidence was piling up.

My final test was to print two pictures of Michelle O'Neill and write 'blonde' on one and 'brunette' on the other. I asked our dog (who run rings round most people) to put a paw on the picture he thought had the right description. Out of 50 attempts, I was encouraged that even he agreed with me roughly half of the time.

I was satisfied. It had been a long morning. Outside, the rain is falling, our health service remains in disarray, schools are crumbling in disrepair, our economy is bumping along the bottom and Donald Trump is still US President.

But those problems are as nothing, it seems, to the ultimate insult of being described as "blonde".

Thank goodness, for once, our politicians are addressing a big issue head on, instead of their usual trick of constantly splitting hairs.

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

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