Blonde remark was meant to be a compliment, says Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her comments about Michelle O'Neill's blonde hair and appearance were meant to be positive.
Mrs Foster said in an interview with The Sunday Independent that "blonde" sprung to mind when asked which word she would associate with Sinn Féin's new northern leader.
"I don't want to be sexist because I can't...", she said but when prompted further by a journalist, she replied "blonde".
Republicans called on Mrs Foster to retract the "sexist and disparaging remarks".
However, she said her comments were intended to be a compliment.
She told the BBC: "They were meant as a compliment. If they have been taken any other way, that is a matter for people who have taken them the other way."
Asked if she regretted the remarks, or if they could be seen as sexist, the DUP leader repeated that they were meant to be a compliment.
She said the response to them showed more "about Sinn Féin than it does about me".
Despite complaining about she is portrayed by the media in the same Sunday Independent interview, the DUP leader added: "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."