Irish public to be consulted on proposed clock changes

Move comes after European Commission proposed ending daylight savings practice

The European Commission has proposed ending the biannual clock changes across the EU. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The European Commission has proposed ending the biannual clock changes across the EU. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

 

The Government has confirmed it will carry out a public consultation on whether the State should end the practice of changing the clocks in spring and autumn.

The news came after an expected Cabinet discussion on the subject on Tuesday.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, whose department is responsible for informing the general public of winter and summertime changes, said last month he had an open mind on the debate on whether or not to continue daylight savings.

His comments followed the European Commission’s proposal in September to end the biannual clock changes across the EU as early as 2019 and its call for member states to decide whether they wanted to maintain permanent summer or winter time.

The last mandatory clock change is set to take place on Sunday, March 31st, 2019. Member states must notify the commission by April 2019 on whether they want to opt for permanent summer or winter time under the new structure.

The proposal to end daylight savings has raised fears the island of Ireland could end up with two time zones if the British government continues the biannual clock change once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in March 2019. This could mean a one-hour time difference between the North and the Republic from October 2019.

A recent online public consultation found 84 per cent of Europeans were in favour of ending the changing of clocks in spring and autumn. The consultation received 4.6 million responses from people across the EU, the highest number of responses ever received in a commission public consultation.

Long tradition

Most EU member states have a long tradition of daylight savings that dates back to the first and second World Wars. Summer time arrangements were mainly introduced to save energy, although they were also brought in for road-safety reasons and to increase leisure opportunities later into the evenings.

Germany and France became the first countries to introduce the practice during the first World War to conserve coal. Britain and Ireland made the change in May 1916, just weeks after the Easter Rising. The United Kingdom and Ireland abolished their previous summer time arrangements in 1968 to harmonise with the rest of Europe and switched back again in 1972.

EU legislation on summer time arrangements was introduced in 1980 to unify existing national summer time practices across the union. Since 2001, the EU directive on summer time arrangements has required member states to switch to summer time on the last Sunday of March and to switch back to winter time on the last Sunday of October.

Internationally, summer time arrangements are observed in about 60 countries, including in North America and Oceania. However, China, Russia, Belarus and Turkey are just some of the nations who have chosen to abolish daylight savings.

In Ireland, Independent TD Tommy Broughan introduced the Brighter Evenings Bill in 2012, proposing that the State move to continental time. In 2017, former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald said the discussion around daylight savings was being kept under review but that any trial changes should be co-ordinated as a “joint venture” with the United Kingdom.

She said a committee set up in the context of the Bill had been “impressed by the benefits of introducing summer for a longer portion of the year” and had recommended this position be put forward in any future review of European legislation.