Liz Truss has been named as the new leader of the British Conservative Party and Britain’s fourth prime minister in just over six years.
The result, which was widely expected, was announced at 12.30pm following a vote by Conservative Party members last week.
Truss comfortably defeated former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who had faced the difficult task of convincing the Tory membership to make him Britain’s first non-white Prime Minister.
Once a member of the centrist Liberal Democrats, Truss’s politics has gradually drifted towards populist far-right extremism. She was previously Foreign Minister in the ‘war cabinet’ led by her ousted predecessor, Boris Johnson.
Unionists are among her most avid supporters and it is likely she will maintain her hard pro-unionist line under Johnson. She infamously drafted the legislation, not yet become law, which breaches both the Good Friday Agreement and the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and paves the way for the reintroduction of a hard border through the island of Ireland.
Even before her victory was confirmed, Truss lived up to her reputation as ‘the human hand grenade’ by once again inflaming tensions with Ireland and the EU over Brexit and its Irish Protocol.
She has little credibility with the British electorate. According to a recent poll, 52% of whom predict she will make a bad Prime Minister while only 12% who think she will be a good one.
Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said he hopes “the direction of travel” of British-Irish relations can be changed under her premiership.
Mr Coveney said he and Taoiseach Micheal Martin were in Oxford recently at the weekend to meet British ministers, and that “everyone was talking about what a Liz Truss premiership would look like... Whether the strident way in which she has brought forward the Northern Ireland Protocol legislation in the UK, which, of course, has created a lot of tension and undermined trust, whether that will continue to be her strategy as prime minister or not.”
Mr Coveney told RTE Radio Ms Truss is a “talented, very energetic politician”.
“She is going to be the next prime minister, and we will work with her and her team, but I hope we can change the direction of travel for British-Irish relations that we’ve seen over the last couple of years, which really has been one of tension and standoff on very important issues - predominantly related to Northern Ireland,” he said.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said Truss “needs to ensure she follows through on her promises over the Protocol”.
Sinn Féin’s John Finucane called on Johnson’s successor to begin work on restoring the Assembly, Executive and north-south bodies.
“The onus is on the new Prime Minister to respect the democratic wishes of the people, to honour international agreements and end the threats to break international law,” said the North Belfast MP.
“Workers and families are struggling. The blockage of government by the DUP, aided and abetted by the Tories, is totally unacceptable and cannot continue. People need our help now.”