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Theresa May to CNN: Queen Elizabeth II was ‘the best diplomat the country ever had’

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Theresa May, then Prime Minister of Great Britain, chats with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on April 19, 2018. (Credit: Yui Mok-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Theresa May, a former UK prime minister, told CNN on Tuesday that Queen Elizabeth II was “the best diplomat the country ever had.” And she added that King Charles III will follow her example and “recognize those moments when the monarch has the ability to help people move forward.” The king is visiting Northern Ireland as part of his tour of the nations on Tuesday.

In conversation with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, May reflected on the late queen’s diplomatic legacy and, in particular, paid tribute to her 2011 visit to the Republic of Ireland and her role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

“It has tremendous power, the monarchy. The visit to the Republic of Ireland was very important because it brought the two countries together,” May said.

“As a child, I was old enough to know about the conflict in Northern Ireland. And there was great concern about when it would be possible to have peace and see that reconciliation. Her Majesty played a part in that. That visit to the Republic of Ireland was very important, but also shaking hands with Martin McGuinness,” he added.

The late Martin McGuinness was the leader of the Irish nationalist Sinn Féin party in Northern Ireland at the time and a former commander of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The queen’s handshake was seen as a major step in the peace process, as this army had been responsible for the death of Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s uncle.

As King Charles III was en route to Belfast, May told CNN that she believes the monarch’s visit will inspire unity among the nations of the United Kingdom.

“I think the country is uniting behind [de la monarquía] because it is a crucial element of our constitutional structure that the new monarch takes over immediately when the previous monarch dies. There is an absolute thread of continuity and people recognize it. And it is absolutely true that the king was in Scotland yesterday, he is in Northern Ireland, he is also going to Wales,” he said.

“This is kind of a historical thing about the king showing himself to his people across the country. That’s exactly what he’s doing. I think everyone will be reassured by the continuity it provides,” he added.

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