The Cork fishmonger who met the queen: ‘I think there was a sense we crossed a bridge’

Pat O’Connell believes PM is ‘mini-Trump’ who has created huge difficulties for Britain

 Pat O’Connell meets Queen Elizabeth at his fish counter in the English Market in 2011: “There comes a time when you have to say ‘It’s time to move on’.”

Pat O’Connell meets Queen Elizabeth at his fish counter in the English Market in 2011: “There comes a time when you have to say ‘It’s time to move on’.”

 

Looking back on his moments with Queen Elizabeth in the English Market, Cork fishmonger Pat O’Connell says the reception she received marked Ireland’s growing maturity and its willingness to view Britain in a new light.

“We are influenced by history and we won’t forget history but there comes a time when you have to say ‘It’s time to move on’. And at the end of the day, we have more in common with Britain than what separates us,” he says.

The encounter between the two was perhaps the apogee of her visit a decade ago this week, where she broke into a smile of genuine warmth as O’Connell quipped about calling an ugly monkfish, “the mother-in-law fish”.

Deteriorating links

But that was then and this is now. O’Connell is an astute observer of politics and is in no doubt that Anglo-Irish relations have deteriorated since, spurred by Brexit and everything that has happened since.

He puts the blame at British prime minister Boris Johnson’s door: “In many ways, I think Boris is a mini-Trump. He doesn’t speak the truth and he is more interested in himself than his country and he’s sold a pup in a lot of ways.

“He said it wouldn’t hurt Britain to be out of Europe but I think it’s created huge difficulties for Britain. And there will be more to come because I think the devil is in the detail of that deal and we are only seeing the start of it.”

However, he finds grounds for optimism in the British visitors that used to call to his stall in the English Market prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will do so again once it lifts.

“We’ve always had a lot of British people coming in but, after the queen’s visit, they were a bit more relaxed about it. Again, like ourselves, I think there was a sense with them we had crossed a bridge and that can only be a good thing.”