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How Ireland lost 25 minutes because of a British law passed after the 1916 Rising

Ireland had Dublin Mean Time that was separate to Greenwich Mean Time until 1 October 1916.

Time-(Ireland)-Act Source: Dublin City Council

ON 1 OCTOBER 1916, Ireland lost its own time zone.

Dublin Mean Time, which had been 25 minutes and 21 seconds later than Greenwich Mean Time, had been in operation for 36 years and set by the longitude of the Dunsink Observatory.

With one fell swoop, however, British legislators ordered the standardised Irish time to be the same as the UK just a few months after the Easter Rising.

It meant that Ireland’s time had to be put back 35 minutes to put it in line with the British time when Summer Time ended that October.

When the issue was subject to a brief debate in the House of Commons on 1 August 1916, Liberal Secretary of State for the Home Department Herbert Samuel claimed that  “in all quarters in Ireland it has been pressed upon me that the hour be assimilated”.

He made the case that various chambers of commerce throughout the UK and Ireland had lobbied for the proposal for the purposes of business and trade.

Irish Parliamentary Party member John Dillon, however, vehemently disagreed.

He told the house: “I must confess that I am amazed to hear the Home Secretary’s statement that he had received communications from all parties in Ireland in favour of this Bill. I cannot believe it.

The right honorable gentleman went on to say that a great number of nationalist members had asked him to introduce this Bill. I never heard of the Bill until, to my amazement, I saw it on the paper this morning.
Having sat for thirty years for my constituency without a contest, I have never heard a single one of my constituents complain of the difference of time.

Despite Ireland gaining independence from Britain several years later, the country never reverted to Dublin Mean Time, and has put clocks forward and back in line with Greenwich Mean Time for over 100 years now.

The argument has been made by modern Irish politicians on numerous occasions to abolish putting the clocks back every Autumn.

One is Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune, who has advocated scrapping the clocks a number of times.

Last October, she said: “Having brighter evenings in winter would lead to improved outcomes for road safety as the roads are statistically more dangerous from the hours of 4-7pm. There are obvious economic benefits such as reduced energy consumption because of less need for artificial light in the evenings with a consequent reduction in CO2 emissions.

The very least we should do is have an informed debate on whether it is a good idea to continue winding the clocks back and forwards every year.

Read: Days on Earth are getting longer (very, very slowly)

Read: This TD is trying to move Ireland into a different timezone

About the author:

Sean Murray

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