THE FATHER AND brother of Jonny Byrne who was taken from the river Barrow in Carlow yesterday morning have made a public appeal urging people to stop taking part in the “neknomination” drinking game.
The 19-year-old went into the water near Milford Bridge on Saturday evening. His brother Pat tried to save him, but he watched his brother drown in front of him.
Following his death, Jonny’s brother posted a message on his Facebook page, urging people to stop the challenge. He stated:
“This neck nomination s**t has to stop right now. My young 19-year-old brother Jonny Byrne from Carlow died tonight in the middle of his nomination… He thought he had to try and beat the competition and after he necked his pint he jumped into the river…”
The drinking trend – known as “Neknomination” – involves the “neknominator” who, after posting a video of themselves online downing a pint or other form of alcohol , then “neknominates” one or two of his friends to follow suit. The rules dictate that they now have 24 hours to upload their video and nominate their choices, carrying on the trend.
Byrne is one of two deaths over the weekend linked to alcohol. Gardaí at Pearse Street in Dublin are investigating the death of Ross Cummins, aged 22, from Ringsend, whose body was found in a house in nearby Macken Street in the early hours of Saturday morning. Initial reports suggested that neknomination was involved in the death, but friends of the young man have denied this was the case.
Jonny Byrne’s father, Joe Byrne, appealed to young people to think about what they are doing, stating:
It has cost my son his life and our lives will never be the same again. I hope this message is heeded. For us life is virtually over.
His brother Pat also made a heartfelt appeal, stating:
Will it take the loss of my brother’s life for people to cop on to themselves and realise how stupid this game is…
He said he wanted people to know that he would continue his campaign against the game, adding, “I am going to keep campaigning to have this neknomination taken off Facebook”.
Jonny Byrne was involved in GAA and played for Carlow and Naomh Bríd Hurling Club.
Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland, Seamus Brennan, chairman of the club said that Byrne was a kind young man who was in his first year in Carlow IT studying Businness Management.
He said he was “mad into the hurling” and was always seen with a hurl and ball in his hand. He added that there is yet no evidence that Jonny had “taken a drink as of yet” but said that the drinking game was “extremely risky” stating that more education is needed surrounding alcohol awareness
Joe O’Connor, President of the Students Union of Ireland also said on RTE’s Morning Ireland that the neknomination game has escalated in a remarkably short time and called on people to reflect on this weekend’s happenings.
The union has launched a #breakthechain campaign, which O’Connor says he hopes will make the social media trend disappear “as quickly as it arrived”.
He said that people should think twice before taking part in the neknomination drinking game, “if nothing else but out of respect of those that have died this weekend,” he said.
Yesterday, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald condemned the online craze stating that it was dangerous and potentially harmful to young people, adding “it is evidence of our society’s broader need to address our binge drinking culture”.
Fitzgerald added the popularity of neknominations shows we still have a long way to go in developing a healthy societal attitude to the consumption of alcohol.
This evening, Fitzgerald said Irish society must adopt a more responsible attitude to alcohol consumption.
She called on young adults not to engage in the neknominations craze and not to apply peer-pressure when it comes to drinking.
She confirmed that officials from her Department have been in contact with Facebook regarding the issue of neknominations.
While Facebook has declined to take down pages and videos, they have advised Minister Fitzgerald “that they may intervene if bullying or coercive behaviour relating to the‘nek-nominations’ craze is reported to it”, she said in a statement.
The Minister said that neknominations “yet again shows the very serious problem we have in Ireland as a direct result of the misuse and abuse of alcohol”.
But rather than just blaming social media, let us be clear: ‘nek-nominations’ is driven ultimately by a very negative form of peer pressure. The problem is not technology. It is society. ‘Nek-nominations’ show we still have a long way to go in developing a healthy societal attitude to the consumption of alcohol.
A book of condolences for Jonny Byrne opened this morning at Carlow IT.
- Additional reporting Aoife Barry