Sinn Fein seems to think that Arlene Foster’s description of Michelle O’Neill as “blonde” paint the DUP leader in an unattractive light.
In fact the very opposite is true.
Michelle O’Neill has not in fact said much about this row, but she has presided over a party response to compliments from the DUP leader that underscores some central truths about the republican movement.
Mrs Foster used the word “blonde” when put on the spot in a word association game in a Sunday Independent interview.
As almost everyone will concede, it is difficult when suddenly asked to come up with single word to describe another person. Mrs Foster was hardly going to say of her political rival “wonderful” or “brilliant”.
After opting for “blonde,” look what the DUP leader went on to say about the Sinn Fein northern leader: “Michelle is very attractive. She presents herself very well and she always is – you know – her appearance is always very ‘the same’.You never see her without her make-up. You never see her without her hair [looking] ‘perfect’.”
She added: “And, I mean, she always looks so well and always presents herself in a particular way, I … sometimes you have a bad hair day and obviously that’s the day that you are going to be photographed.”
Note the generosity and self deprecation in these comments, qualities that hardly spring to mind when thinking of how Sinn Fein leaders refer to their rivals across the divide.
This ought to be, and most respects is, a trivial episode. And yet somehow Sinn Fein have made it not so. It is disturbing that the party has contrived to turn this into yet another accusation of unionist prejudice – in this case sexism.
But as another election draws near, we can never have enough evidence of how inclined to grievance-mongering Sinn Fein can be. There is still time, however, for Ms O’Neill to show leadership and recognise the warmth in Mrs Foster’s comments.