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Ireland shelves investigation on whether to switch time zones

Britain has put proposals to keep its clocks an hour forward on ice – and Alan Shatter says he’s doing so too.

Image: Patrick Foto via Shutterstock

THE MINISTER in charge of overseeing Ireland’s transition between standard and winter time has said he has no intention of looking into whether Ireland should move its clocks forward an hour permanently – bringing us into line with continental Europe.

Irish officials have previously held discussions with Britain and European counterparts about a potential permanent move to Central European Time (CET) last year – but the talks have not advanced and the proposal now appears to have been shelved indefinitely.

Officials from the Department of Justice had met with the sponsor of a bill presented in the British House of Commons which would have seen the UK consider moving to daylight savings’ time on a permanent basis – which would be seen as an incremental first step to moving to CET.

That bill has lapsed, however, because it was not passed before this year’s summer recess – and with that legislation having been abandoned, the Irish government has also ruled out any proposal to change time zones.

“I have no plans at this time to seek submissions from the public and organisations and State Departments on the implications, benefits or disadvanages to Ireland tin relation to changing our time zone to ‘European time’,” Shatter affirmed in the Dáil this week.

Responding to questions from FG backbencher Noel Harrington, Shatter said officials from his own department and the Department of Foreign Affairs were “keeping a close watch on the issue and should the position I have outlined change I will review the situation”.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has previously expressed its support for any plan to move Ireland onto CET – pointing out that 45 per cent of Irish exports go to countries already within that time zone.

If Britain was to move at the same time, 62 per cent of Irish exports would then be on the same time zone – and while officials had admitted that the hour’s difference may not seem like a major inconvenience, it does mean a small overlap in the times at which Irish and European offices are both open.

Similar logic was applied when Samoa brought its calendar forward an entire day – jumping the International Date Line so that it was on the same day of the week as Australia and New Zealand, its main trading partners.

EU approval required

Any proposal to permanently change time zone, or to stay on Summer Time on a permanent basis, would require the approval of every individual EU member state.

This is because a directive issued in 2000, after the approval of MEPs and each member state, requires all EU members to switch between summer and winter time at precisely the same moment.

This is to ensure that the relative time difference between member states is not temporarily changed while countries are turning the clocks forward or back.

As a result, Ireland turns the clocks back an hour at 2am – while Germany and France do so at 3am, and Greece at 4am. The end result is that Greece remains two hours ahead of Ireland at all times, in spite of the clocks going forward or back.

The rule is seen as a pre-emptive security measure to ensure that any cross-border policing efforts are not hampered by temporary overlaps in the time zones of individual countries.

It also means, however, that Ireland cannot move its clocks forward by another hour without the approval of other EU countries – because this would permanently adjust the relationships between the time zones operating in each country.

Shatter had previously said he would not consider any change to the Irish time zone which wasn’t also taking effect in Northern Ireland – meaning Ireland would only change its time zone if the UK was doing so at the same time.

Poll: Should Ireland abandon Winter Time – or change time zone altogether?

Read: Don’t forget – the clocks went back last night

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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