A bizarre Internet craze in which people dare each other to “neck” large quantities of alcohol and post the resulting pictures and videos online has been blamed for the deaths of two young men in Ireland over the weekend, amidst fears the potentially dangerous game could spread worldwide.
An Irish judge, Paul Carney, added his voice to the furor this afternoon when he told a court during a sentencing for a rape which took place when the offender was drunk, “If the current Internet drinking contest takes hold, it is going to result in a tsunami of homicide and rape prosecutions coming for this court”.
The dangerous craze—dubbed “neknomination” by the creators of a Facebook group with over 16,000 likes—is believed to be behind the deaths of a 22 year-old DJ found dead at his Dublin home on Saturday morning after taking part in drinking games the previous night and of a 19 year-old amateur sportsman who drowned after jumping into a swollen river following the downing of a drink as part of a “neknomination” challenge in the Irish countryside on Saturday night.
The brother of 19-year-old Jonny Byrne, from County Carlow, posted an emotional message on Facebook saying, “This neck nomination shit has to stop right now. My young 19-year-old brother died tonight in the middle of his nomination. He thought he had to try and beat the competition and after he downed his pint he jumped into the river. If people have any decency and respect they will refrain from any of this stupid neck nomination shit.”
He also changed his profile page to say “Stop ‘Neknomination’ before it’s too late. Share this.” His father Joe said, “I’m appealing to everyone who is associated with this to please stop. It cost my son his life because of a dare and I don’t want to see anybody else in the same situation, because it has destroyed our family.”
A senior Irish government official, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, today called on Facebook to take down the ‘neck nomination’ groups and described the online drinking contest as a “stupid and silly game” with possibly “tragic consequences.”
“Firstly the responsibility is with young people who are falling for a foolish and stupid ruse that can have devastating consequences,” the minister said.
Rabbitte said that it would be “helpful” if Facebook intervened, adding that he may ask an advisory council to examine the ‘neknomination’ phenomenon.
The vast majority of the posts on the various pages are, in and of themselves, harmless. They simply show people drinking down cans or pints of beer in one go, often in unusual location such as while skiing or being held upside down.
However, after completing their nomination, the drinker then challenges friends to do the same thing. The game is believed to have started in Australia and New Zealand, but has quickly spread to Ireland due to the large number of Irish immigrants in Australasia.
The death of Byrne on Saturday night followed the discovery of the young Dublin DJ, 22-year-old Ross Cummins, whose body was found by friends early on Saturday morning. In a video posted on Ross’ Facebook page just over a week ago he is seen participating in a “Neck Nomination,” drinking a pint of what appears to be beer, before nominating two of his friends to continue the cycle.
Gardai are awaiting the results of post-mortem to establish the circumstances of his death, but it is being reported that he had been drinking spirits as part of a ‘Neknomination.”
Facebook has declined to take the pages down, arguing that while the pages are controversial they do not violate its rules.
Usually, of course, the Neknomination ends in laughter not tragedy, as is the case with Andrew Thomas from Shrewsbury, England, who posted a video of himself wearing only underpants, socks, a rugby helmet and boots downing a pint of Guinness.
In his video, Thomas, holding a rugby ball, turns to the camera and says: “People of Shrewsbury, if I could have your attention please. Dai Roberts thank you very much for my neck nomination, here it is.”
Thomas then drinks the pint in one, before turning back to the camera and saying: “I’d like to nominate Alan Roberts and Dean Pritchard, you have 24 hours, good luck.”
Thomas told a local paper: “Good innocent fun I say. But I would think that. Can’t say I agree with necking pints of Vodka etc as it can get dangerous. But there’s nothing wrong with a beer and a bit of semi-nakedness.”