Is the sun setting on Daylight Saving Time?

By Judy Williams

Tonight the clocks in Ireland move forward an hour as part of Daylight Saving Time (DST). But is this twice-yearly disruption to our clocks about to come to an end?

There are plans to abolish the practice of biannual clock changes from 2021 under a proposal drafted last year by the European Commission.

MEPs on the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism have voted to end Daylight Saving Time and on Monday the European Parliament backed the proposal.  However, it has yet to go to the Council of Member States for a vote on the matter.

If the Council votes in favour of the proposal to end DST, individual European Union (EU) member states will require legislation to make the change and will have to decide whether to remain on ‘summertime’ or ‘wintertime’.

DST takes advantage of available daylight by moving an hour from the morning to the evening.  Countries in the EU currently change their clocks twice a year, ‘springing forward’ for ‘summertime’ at the end of March, and ‘falling back’ for ‘wintertime’ at the end of October.

A large amount of research has been done on the effects of changes to the human biorhythm as a factor in some health and safety issues, and this has been cited as one of the disadvantages of DST, along with it contributing to confusion and energy wastage.

DST is currently used in 49 European countries, including the 28 EU members, and all member states change their clocks on the same date, but the date for other countries differs.

However, when or if Britain leaves the European Union, they will not be obliged to follow EU directives.  If they decide to continue using DST, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could be on different time zones for some of the year, adding to the uncertainty of the situation after Brexit.

Leaving the decision of whether to remain on ‘summertime’ or ‘wintertime’ to individual member states could also be problematic as time differences between countries could increase.

The harmonisation of DST across EU countries has benefited the internal market, so increased time differences could impact the markets, other economic and work-related sectors, international trade, sports, recreation and air and rail traffic.

Polls in 2018 indicated widespread support for ending the time changes with 84 per cent of the 4.6m participating EU citizens voting in favour of abolishing DST. However, according to TheLocal.de, a multi-regional European English-language digital news publisher, three million of the respondents were based in Germany.

Although DST was previously used in 1916 in Germany and Austria, more recently it has been used continuously in EU countries starting in 1966 with Italy and Malta and gradually being adopted by the rest of the EU member states.

Speaking to thejournal.ie, Deirdre Clune, MEP for Ireland South explained why she is in favour of ending the process of changing the clocks each year, citing economic benefits and improved road safety as advantages of abolishing DST.  “In addition, brighter evenings in the winter would have a positive benefit for public health,” she said.

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