Am Coigilte Sholas an Lae: An Irish Perspective on Daylight Saving Time
Spring has sprung into action and so have our clocks. As we observe our external environment for indicators of spring, like blooming flowers, nesting songbirds, sunnier days, and wee lambs, we might also take note of another timely change - Daylight Saving Time.
According to researchers, science communicators, and time experts from timeanddate.com, less than 40% of the globe uses Daylight Saving Time (DST) today. For the EU and most of Europe the clocks were scheduled to Spring Forward on Sunday, March 26th, 2023, at 1.00AM. The United States and Canada did the same only two weeks earlier, on 12 March 2023.
For Ireland we said goodbye to Standard Time (ST) or Winter Time about a week ago now, so we should be feeling settled in to Daylight Saving Time (DST), or Summer Time. Now that we are caught up on the lost hour of sleep, we wanted to know more about our biannual clock changes in Ireland. If you do too, then let this timeline be your guide through the history of our clocks springing forward and falling back.
1900 - 1915
For 15 years there are no clock changes in Ireland, and instead the time stays 25 min. and 21 sec. behind Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) since it took that much longer for the sun to rise in Dublin – Ireland’s clocks were set to Dublin Meant Time (DMT).
21 May 1916
The first time Ireland observed DST was the 21 of May 1916, the clocks turned forward at 2.00AM changing the local time to 3.00AM, setting the clocks to Irish Standard Time – 34 min. and 39 secs. ahead of UTC.
1 October 1916
The clocks fell back at 3.00AM by 34 mins and 39 seconds to synchronize the clocks with Greenwich Mean Time and marking the end of Ireland’s first DST at 2.25.25AM.
8 April 1917
Ireland turned the clocks forward one hour at 2.00AM for DST.
17 September 1917
The clocks turned one hour backwards at 3.00AM.
Like most of Europe, Ireland’s first recorded experience with DST was influenced by fuel saving efforts during WWI when Germany and Austria turned their clocks forward one hour on 30 April 1916. This made Germany the first country to popularize DST, not standardize it, since the practice would not begin again until WWII. However, the first ever place to implement DST was the small town of Port Arthur, now known as Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada on 1 July 1908.
25 February 1940
The clocks turned forward at 2.00AM and were never turned back again in the fall.
1940 - 1946
There were no changes made to the clocks in Ireland during this time, so we stayed in Irish Standard Time for 6 consecutive years.
Did you know that our time zone in Ireland takes a different name during DST? From March – October the clocks are set to Irish Standard Time (UTC+1), and for the rest of the year it is Greenwich Mean Time (UTC).
6 October 1946
The clocks returned to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) by falling back one hour at 3.00AM.
16 March 1947
The clocks turned forward one hour – Ireland resumes biannual clock changes for the next 21 years.
Depending on where you live in relation to the equator (latitude), the hours of sunlight you experience throughout the 24 hours of a day are drastically different to the hours of darkness.
For example, Ireland's latitude is about 53 degrees North, so on 18 July 2023 the sun will rise at 5.19AM and set at 9.42PM which gives us 16 hours, 22 minutes, and 36 seconds of daylight. Six months later, on 18 December 2023 the sun will rise at 7.54AM and set at 4.24PM giving us 8 hours, 29 minutes, and 47 seconds of daylight. That’s nearly 50% less sunlight.
27 October 1968
Daylight Saving Time ended at midnight, but the clocks were not turned back at all because the time zone conveniently changed at the same time.
1969 - 1971
Ireland did not change the clocks and instead stayed at Irish Standard Time (IST) for two consecutive years.
Did you know that the sun is an external clock, and we have an internal biological clock? Before we had energy resources to fuel artificial lighting, the sun was our primary source of light, this also made the sun our primary time telling device. The sun is still like a clock, ticking away to help synchronize the sleep-wake cycle of all living organisms – including humans, to our external environment. This is called Circadian Rhythm and it is what helps us maintain our daily routines – like eating and being active in the day and sleeping at night.
31 October 1917
The clocks fell back at 3.00AM (IST), returning the time to 2.00AM (GMT)
19 March 1972
The DST routine begins to manifest when the clocks turned forward one hour at 2.00AM on the second last Sunday of March.
1972 - 1980
For 8 years Ireland observed DST, as do other countries across Europe. The clocks went forward and back twice a year, but not necessarily on a synchronized schedule.
You can probably imagine how all these clock changes might have affected daily life – like international communications and travel itineraries. Since animals are also synchronized to the sun and their external environment a farmer’s work begins when the sun rises, regardless of the hour on the clock.
29 March 1981
Ireland establishes a routine DST schedule that reflects the one we use today. The clocks went forward one hour at 1.00AM the last Sunday of March, and backward one hour at 2.00AM the last Sunday of October.
The European Union (EU) standardized an EU-wide DST schedule to maintain consistency for communications and transportation timetables. The schedule is synchronized with the one Ireland had been using for 15 years prior.
The EU issued the 2000/84/EC directive, this renewed all DST arrangements that had been maintained for the past 20 years for an unspecified period of time, and mandated that the last Sundays in March and October were definitive dates for the EU DST schedule.
Ireland’s Minister for Communications, and Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan suggested that researchers should investigate the possibility of turning the clocks ahead one hour permanently in Ireland.
If the clocks stayed one hour ahead of GMT all year round, then Ireland would be on Central European Time (CET) UTC+1 from October – March and on Central European Summer Time (CEST) UTC+2 when DST is meant to begin.
Thursday, 27 October 2016
For the first time the European Union debated whether to continue implementing Daylight Saving Time in all member states.
12 September 2018
The European Commission issued a draft directive to end synchronized clock changes in the EU by 2019, giving member states the choice of turning their clocks one final time – forward on 31 March 2019, or backward on 27 October 2019.
26 March 2019
The European Parliament voted in favour of the draft directive to end our synchronized DST and repeal directive 2000/84/EC. The deadline was extended to April 2020 for countries to decide their standard time.
Of the 705 Members of the European Parliament, 410 voted in favour of the EU Commission draft, 192 voted against it, and 51 abstained from voting.
In 2019 the Irish government announced their disapproval for the possibility that Ireland and Northern Ireland could have different time zones. This statement agreed with a public opinion poll that showed 82% of people are not in favour of two times zones between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Ireland, along with the rest of the EU observed DST, as did the UK, but if the draft directive becomes policy would Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland end up with different time zones? See how this is already affecting the city of Jerusalem.
Final clock changes were scheduled to turn forward on 28 March 2021 or backward on 31 October 2021. However, for this to happen 55% of Member States that represent 65% of the EU population needed to vote in agreement first.
26 March 2023
Two years went by and EU Council Ministers have yet to negotiate the draft directive to repeal directive 2000/84/EC and final approval from EU Parliament will also be required, so the clocks turned forward at 1.00AM in Ireland and almost all other European countries except for Armenia, Belarus, Iceland, and Russia.
The table shows how one day in each season in Ireland would be like if we were to maintain DST or implement one of the changes recommended by the EU’s proposal to repeal directive 2000/84/EC.
Table 1 – Time at sunrise and sunset in Ireland if the clocks changed for Daylight Saving Time, stayed ahead 1 hour all year long, or stayed behind 1 hour all year long.
So how closely do you pay attention to the natural rhythms of our external environment or your internal biological clock?
Just over one hundred years ago our daily routines were ruled by the amount of sunlight we received in a day. Since our circadian rhythm cannot be turned off this remains true. However, advancements in technology, international relations, and urbanization have given Ireland a few more reasons to adjust the clocks.
Researchers disagree on whether changing the clocks for DST is good or bad for our health, given the varied implications on our unique work and rest schedules, and biological clock. It is unclear whether DST is harmful or helpful, or if we might be saying goodbye to it in the future. So for the time being we can enjoy the extra hour of evening daylight – or stretch as we say in Ireland – and try to forget about the hour of sleep we lost and maybe look forward to gaining it back in October.
With many thanks to timeanddate.com
REPORT on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council discontinuing seasonal changes of time and repealing Directive 2000/84/EC | A8-0169/2019 | European Parliament (europa.eu)