Last week we had the usual bi-annual debacle of daylight savings or summertime. Some people probably enjoyed the extra morning's hour in bed, but how do you tell cows you're going to be an hour late tomorrow? In general, I find daylight savings a bit confusing and have been late or early many times because of it. Nevertheless despite my grumbling, every six months the powers that be carry on with it all the same. So what is it all about?
The concept of daylight savings time (DST) has its roots in the nineteenth century, when it was suggested by a New Zealander, George Hudson, but it was first adopted in 1916 by Germany and Austria-Hungary. Since then most European and American countries have at one time or another adopted DST but in recent years it has been discarded by most of South America and a few US states.
The idea of DST was to maximise daylight hours for those working during the day. It has its roots in industry, not agriculture, as some have suggested. It was brought in so that workers could engage in activities after work during the summer months. Going to work an hour earlier left an extra hour in the evenings. This suits retailers and those interested in sports and to be fair it serves its purpose when the long summer evenings seem to stretch to oblivion.
The trouble starts at this time of year when we lose that hour from days that are already shortening. It might be an extra hour in bed, but the result is a jolt to the system and, unless you decide to get up at six instead of seven, DST effectively robs you of an hour of daylight.
There have been some efforts to do away with DST in Ireland. In 2013 Tommy Broughan brought a Brighter Evenings Bill to the Dáil. At the time the IFA told Mr Broughan that Ireland would need to work in tandem with the UK on any move to change the time. Sinn Féin's Michael Colreavy got quite philosophical during the debate, saying the Dáil can legislate for taxes but cannot create time. He quoted Aristotle, saying, “time is the most unkown of all unknown things.” The Bill was rejected by then Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Image: By United Cigar Stores Company (sponsor); artist unknown - Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WWI Posters, LC-USZC4-10663 (color film copy transparency), uncompressed archival TIFF version (60 MB), Public Domain.