The Irish Times view on changing the clocks: only a matter of time

Where previously half the nations of the world changed their clocks, that number is now down to one third

As the country turns its clocks forward tonight, spare a thought for those who will begrudge the loss of an hour of precious sleep rather than celebrate the brighter evenings which lie ahead.

While some quibble over the exact moment when winter is over, there is no better point to celebrate the definitive end of the long months of darkness than on that first Sunday evening of daylight saving time, when there is still light in the sky at 8pm. That it falls this year on Easter Sunday adds to the sense of renewal.

But the begrudgers have a point: research shows the twice-yearly time shift has a detrimental impact on public health, and that the productivity gains it was introduced to achieve more than a century ago are minimal or non-existent. Lifestyle changes, including an increased emphasis on evening leisure and exercise, are also a factor in the arguments made by those seeking to end the current system. In response, the European Commission initiated a process in 2018 in which EU citizens were asked for their view. Some 4.6 million people responded to an online consultation, with 84 per cent in favour of scrapping the clock change. The commission proposed that by 2019 each member state would adopt year-round daylight saving or standard time. For Ireland, that would have meant a choice between darkness lasting until 10am in midwinter (daylight saving) or dawn breaking before 4am in midsummer (standard).

Both options would undoubtedly meet opposition, and the proposals appear to have run into the ground during Covid. Irish policy on the issue, meanwhile, has always prioritised maintaining parity across the island of Ireland. That remains the case after Brexit.

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For the moment, the current system of changing the clocks twice a year seems set to continue. But research by Pew shows a clear international trend: where previously half the nations of the world changed their clocks, that number is now down to one third. Change is clearly on the way. It is only a matter of time.

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