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Bring on winter summertime

Blog | By Mary Kenny | Oct 22, 2018


Do we have to keep putting the clocks forward at the end of October, and then back again in March (mnemonic: ‘Spring forward, Fall back’)? Our friend Jean-Claude Juncker, about whom so many winey jokes are made, President of the European Commission says his officials will put forward a bill abolishing these seasonal times changes.

Good idea. It’s horrible when the evening light suddenly drops an hour around the Hallowe’en weekend. This is one EU idea that, surely, the United Kingdom should embrace.

And if Ireland agrees with an EU directive to maintain permanent ‘summer time’ – and Britain does not – then there could be a ‘time change’ when crossing the Irish border, as Northern Ireland and the Republic could be in different time zones

Changing the clocks is a subject of continuous Irish debate, where the light varies appreciably between the east and west coast. In Co Galway, even in the depths of winter, it’s never dark before 5pm.

Mornings are a different matter: and as in Scotland, bright evenings mean darker mornings. Children walking to school in the dark is an issue – although so many children now go to school by car.

Back in 1916, when the clocks in the British Isles were being aligned, there was a movement in Ireland to establish ‘Irish time’ – supported by the Catholic church. The clergy liked the idea that clocks should follow nature and, as Dublin was about twenty minutes behind London according to the arc of the sun, it should be twenty minutes later by the clocks.

Perhaps time didn’t matter quite so much then. There was an old country saying that ‘When God made time, he made plenty of it.’

Our times are different now, in every sense of the word, and clocks and other timing devices have to be harmonised to within a particle of a second. Still, keeping all-round summertime is an idea worth discussing at an official level. Monsieur Juncker has a sensible point.