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"That word 'unionist' is very important to me": Prime Minister May sets out her priorities

Theresa May, the former UK home secretary, has taken over from David Cameron as Prime Minister.

Updated at 10.20pm 

Theresa May becomes PM Source: Dominic Lipinski

THERESA MAY, THE new UK Prime Minister, has stressed the importance of maintaining the “precious, precious bond” between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as she begins her new role.

The former home secretary took over from David Cameron after an audience with the Queen this evening. She becomes the second woman to hold the role, after Margaret Thatcher.

“Not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party,” she said in a speech outside Downing Street.

And that word ‘unionist’ is very important to me.

In addition to referring to the bond between the four nations that make up the UK, she said her party also believed in a union “between all of our citizens, every one of us whoever we are and wherever we’re from”.

She went on to highlight a range of injustices experienced in society by minorities, women and the young, before stressing that it was her mission to make Britain “a country that works for everyone”.

Theresa May becomes PM Theresa May speaks outside Downing Street. Source: Hannah McKay

No honeymoon

May will have a very short honeymoon, however, as she takes over. The 59-year-old will be tasked with negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU, which she had campaigned against.

European leaders have asked the UK government to move quickly to renegotiate its relationship with the EU – but May has indicated she will not be rushed into triggering the formal procedure for Brexit.

May must also attempt to bridge Conservative Party divisions, and deal with a potential economic downturn.

It’s expected the new Prime Minister will also try to head off attempts by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP to have a second referendum on Scottish independence.

This evening, May spoke to a number of European leaders including Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said he “offered warm congratulations” on her appointment.

In a statement this evening, the Department of the Taoiseach said that the two discussed a range of issues and agreed that they would meet in the coming weeks.

“We discussed a range of issues of mutual interest, including the importance of continuing to work together to build on the excellent relationship that now exists between Ireland and Britain, including our joint support of the peace process and the wider development of cooperation between our two countries,” Kenny said.

We also discussed the important challenges that arise from the recent vote by the UK to leave the European Union. I outlined Ireland’s key areas of concern and shared my perspective on the challenges that lie ahead in the forthcoming negotiations. We agreed to stay in touch and that we would meet each other in the coming weeks.

Theresa May becomes PM David Cameron speaking outside 10 Downing Street earlier. Source: HANNAH MCKAY

Final farewell 

Earlier today, Cameron held his final weekly question and answer session in parliament this afternoon, before tendering his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

The former prime minister announced his resignation in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit result, having led the campaign to remain in the European Union.

In a final Downing Street statement this afternoon, flanked by his wife and children, he said it had been “the greatest honour of my life” to serve as premier for the past six years.

My only wish is continued success for this great country that I love so very much.

With reporting from AFP, Rónán Duffy and Paul Hosford. 

Read: What will Theresa May as British Prime Minister mean for Ireland?

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