Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Time Lords and Necromancers

I head for Syria next week and while in Damascus I hope to see in the National Museum the remnants of one of the earliest polar-axis sundials ever made, the marble mid 14th century, horizontal, 2m x 1m sundial that was constructed by Ibn al‐Shāṭir and which used to grace the northern minaret of the Great Mosque. Failing that I hope perhaps to see the 19th century copy that replaced it. Ibn al‐Shāṭir was better known for his instrument making than for his astronomy but his extremely accurate modification of Ptomely’s geocentric planetary model, based on direct observation, was to heavily influence Copernicus’ later revolutionary heliocentric – yet almost identical – planetary model.

Ibn al‐Shāṭir was the head muwaqqit or religious timekeeper in Damascus and somehow this notion of being in charge of time and the connection to religion resonated in my brain.

In Ireland our chief Time Lord or muwaqqit is in law, surprisingly, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, currently Dermot Ahern T.D..

In a whimsical article by Benjamin Franklin to the Journal of Paris in 1784 he proposed moving to a daylight driven economic activity clock, based on the cost of burning candles, and he stated that with the change ‘All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days; after which the reformation will be as natural and easy as the present irregularity; for, ce n'est que le premier pas qui coûte.’

In 1907 William Willett published a pamphlet The Waste of Daylight proposing an hour shift in the summer and on May 21, 1916 a month after the Easter Rising in Dublin the Summer Time Act became operational in England and this was followed on October 1, 1916 by the provisions of the Time (Ireland) Act of August 23 which permanently linked Irish time to UK or Greenwich Mean Time.

The Irish Free State was established in 1922 and in 1923 the first Summer Time Act was promulgated. It stated that the “The time for general purposes in Saorstát Eireann shall, during the period of summer time, be one hour in advance of West-European time.”

By 1925 the Department of Justice had evolved from the old Department of Home Affairs and the Summer Time Act of that year stated that

The Minister for Justice may, whenever it appears expedient to him so to do, by order appoint that the period appointed by this Act or by any previous order made under this section to be the period of summer time for the purpose of this Act shall, either generally or in any particular years or year, not be the period of summer time for that purpose, and that, in lieu thereof some other period specified in such order shall, either generally or in such particular years or year (as the case may require), be the period of summer time for the purpose of this Act.

The Minister had from the ether suddenly become Ireland’s Time Lord!

The ministerial responsibility for “Summer Time” was to continue with Summer Time Orders until, mysteriously, in 1971 when the


suddenly made the Minister for Justice and Summer Time become the Minister for “Winter Time instead.

The Minister could do all or any of the following— (a) vary the period of winter time prescribed by subsection (1) (c) of this section, either generally (b) or for a specified year or specified years, (c) prescribe, either generally or for a specified year or specified years but not so as to affect the operation (d) of subsection (1) (b) of this section, that there shall be no period of winter time, (e) amend or revoke any order under this subsection (including this paragraph).

It could only happen in Ireland!

In 2001 the European Union went to a lot of trouble to permanently standardize Summer Time throughout Europe with their directive 2000/84/EC of 19 January 2001 and asked that all countries have legislation in place to accede to this directive by the end of the year. The first three articles of the directive stated:

Article 1

For the purposes of this Directive ‘summer-time period’ shall

mean the period of the year during which clocks are put

forward by 60 minutes compared with the rest of the year.

Article 2

From 2002 onwards, the summer-time period shall begin, in

every Member State, at 1.00 a.m., Greenwich Mean Time, on

the last Sunday in March.

Article 3

From 2002 onwards, the summer-time period shall end, in

every Member State, at 1.00 a.m., Greenwich Mean Time, on

the last Sunday in October.

What does Ireland do?

Ah! Wouldn’t you know? We publish a Winter Time Order instead (S.I. No: 506 Winter Time Order 2001).

"I, John O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 1 of the Standard Time (Amendment) Act, 1971 ( No. 17 of 1971 ) (as adapted by the Justice (Alteration of Name of Department and Title of Minister) Order 1997 ( S.I. No. 298 of 1997 )), and for the purpose of giving effect to the European Parliament and Council (Summer Time) Directive No. 2000/84/EC of 19 January 20011 , hereby order as follows:
1. This order may be cited as the Winter Time Order, 2001.
2. (a) The period of winter time which, apart from this Article, would end at two o'clock Greenwich mean time in the morning of the Sunday following the third Saturday of March 2002, is varied so as to end at one o'clock Greenwich mean time in the morning of the last Sunday of March 2002.
(b) For the year 2002 and subsequent years a period of winter time begins at one o'clock Greenwich mean time in the morning of the last Sunday in October in any year and ends at one o'clock Greenwich mean time in the morning of the last Sunday in March in the following year."

Don’t you just love the logic that sometimes exists in the corridors of hubris?

It perhaps is just as well that the same Minister of Justice, Winter Time and Necromancy, who is now forever responsible for “Winter Time” in Ireland, and who in his wisdom also decided to confirm the crime of blasphemous libel in Ireland in the Defamation Bill of 2009, managed to eradicate forever the crime of sedition.

It is either whacky or muwaqqit or what!

[No. 31.] [2009.]
Defamation Act 2009.
Criminal Liability

35.—The common law offences of defamatory libel, seditious libel
and obscene libel are abolished.

36.—(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter
shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on
indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000.
(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters
blasphemous matter if—
(a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive
or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any
religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial
number of the adherents of that religion, and
(b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the
matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this
section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would
find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value
in the matter to which the offence relates.
(4) In this section “religion” does not include an organisation or
(a) the principal object of which is the making of profit, or
(b) that employs oppressive psychological manipulation—
(i) of its followers, or
(ii) for the purpose of gaining new followers.

Dermot Ahern T.D.

Perhaps Irish Winter Time is a new religious movement and the legislation drafters of the Department of Justice are performing their equivalent of a necromancer's black mass and reversing everything that the EU demands? Have a close look at the blasphemy legislation. Religions are not fully defined except by the fact that they may not be a money raising outfit or employ psychological manipulation of their followers.

I guess that could exclude nearly every known religious movement established thus far. The promise of hellfire and damnation or paradise are polar opposites on the sun dial of theology yet can still manipulate.
As the song goes : Winter time and the living is … delayed

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