| 19.8°C Dublin

Winter Time is still darkening our doors

Close

'This week, Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly joined an EU-level bid to end what he called the 'nonsensical' biannual time change, known as Daylight Saving Time'

'This week, Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly joined an EU-level bid to end what he called the 'nonsensical' biannual time change, known as Daylight Saving Time'

'This week, Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly joined an EU-level bid to end what he called the 'nonsensical' biannual time change, known as Daylight Saving Time'

With a deadening effect the statement arrived, as ever, from the Minister for Justice this weekend: "Winter Time will commence at 1am on Sunday. Clocks and watches should be put back one hour at that time. Winter Time will end at 1am on Sunday, March 26, 2017." Five long months of winter ahead then. "The world is suddener than we fancy it," as the great Irish poet Louis MacNeice wrote.

There has been occasional debate as to whether these arrangements should be reconsidered. This week, Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly joined an EU-level bid to end what he called the "nonsensical" biannual time change, known as Daylight Saving Time. He backed a resolution, co-signed by 40 MEPs, calling for the EU to end the "archaic" fall back, spring forward time changes for health and safety reasons.

We are not so sure. As the essayist Thomas De Quincey wrote, surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o'clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, while the wind and rain are raging audibly without. So, perhaps Kelly and his fellow MEPs should hasten a little more slowly. A compromise might be more suitable, as proposed by the redoubtable Independent TD Tommy Broughan, who has had a Brighter Evenings Bill before Dail Eireann since 2012.

At present, Irish clocks are aligned with those in the UK and Portugal. Bringing Ireland into the Central European Time zone would mean a new model would be adopted, wherein the first year clocks would not go back in October, but would stay one hour ahead until March, when they would then be put forward by an hour. After this first adjustment, clocks would continue to go back and forwards as usual but they would be an hour ahead of our current system and bring Ireland into line with Central European Time.

But it is not as simple, or confusing, as that: by way of example, were Ireland's time zone in line with Central European Time, this would mean that in areas in the North West, such as Sligo, sunrise would not occur on Christmas Day until 9.54am, while on June 21 sunset would not occur until 11.12pm.

There is no scientific or mathematical formula which determines the correct time zone for a state to adopt. Ireland first introduced Daylight Saving Time in 1916 and, along with other countries, has changed its time zone arrangements at different times during the last century. Such decisions, which are made taking many issues into account, are directed by policy and are not formulaic in nature.

In 2013, the then justice minister Alan Shatter, who has maintained an open mind on the matter, argued that Ireland had to bear in mind what was happening in the UK, this country's biggest trading partner, as he said at the time. That was before Brexit, however. Could it be that the UK's exit from the EU may yet herald a single upside for Ireland - an end to Winter Time?

So, what of that compromise, as proposed by Broughan and others? Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen. It may be worth giving consideration to containing the added darkness from November to February, three months instead of five. What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness? Failing that, we could all rise and retire an hour earlier for the winter months, as those in certain Scandinavian countries tend to do. Now there's a thought.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required


Most Watched





Privacy