A YEAR ago, we thought that we were turning back the clocks to winter time for the final occasion, however summer time will not be continuing permanently, as had been mooted by the European Commission, so the clocks have gone back an hour this Sunday morning, giving us the longest weekend of the year. This is the time of year that many people tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when the hours of daylight get shorter.
‘Studies have shown its detrimental consequences on citizens’ sleep and health, and related issues with weakened immunity, increased anxiety and depression in some cases,’ according to Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly, who is in favour of maintaining summer time all year round. He observed that some farmers even witnessed an impact on their animals, particularly dairy farmers when cows must hold their milk for an extra hour.
The Kerry-based Ireland South representative is part of a cross-party group of MEPs which has been campaigning for a number of years for a review of Daylight Savings Time (DST). Changing to winter time was historically justified on the basis that it made the roads safer for children walking to school on winter mornings, but very few of them walk nowadays, perhaps only some in built-up areas with public lighting.
Last year, the European Parliament asked the European Commission to carry out a thorough re-assessment of the Directive and, if there was a need, to propose a revision of the system. The Commission conducted an online poll in which the vast majority of respondents expressed their preference for leaving it at summer time all year round and made this recommendation to member-states for their consideration. However, despite the EC’s best efforts to do away with the bi-annual time adjustments, it was shot down by various governments, including our own.
The Minister that oversees this area, Charlie Flanagan, recommended to Cabinet in July that the Irish government should oppose the seasonal clock changes, opining that, while he acknowledged that many favour ending the practice of seasonal clock changes, ‘the proposal is not a straightforward one.’
Our government’s objection to staying on summer time throughout the year and doing away with the winter daylight saving time was based on Britain’s impending departure from the EU, as it could have resulted in two separate time zones on the island of Ireland, which would create ‘significant unnecessary problems for people living on the border and for the all-island economy.’ The British government is also understood to oppose the ending of winter daylight saving time.
Sean Kelly, it seems, is not giving up the fight and stated that he hoped the decision would not be the final one on the matter: ‘We shouldn't be saying it will be the case forever that we allow the United Kingdom to dictate to us what we want. If the rest of Europe moves forward a certain amount of time should be given before we do the same.’
For now – and probably for quite some time to come – it looks like winter daylight saving time will remain with us. It was a missed opportunity to do away with it, but this lost battle may not be the last one in the ongoing campaign.