Michael Moriarty, general secretary of the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA), said some young people of fragile disposition could be so devastated as to take their own lives if deprived of mutual peer respect through severe bullying and intimidation.
He was commenting on a YouTube site which shows videos of Kilkenny teenagers beating each other.
As revealed in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, seven films of second-level students, some as young as 12, appear on the internet engaged in bare-knuckle fighting while being urged on by a crowd of excited onlookers.
“This is a form of extreme bullying and it is very worrying for parents, schools and community leaders,” said Mr Moriarty. “It is a particularly bad form of intimidation, designed in particular to humiliate victims. It is of the greatest concern when seen in the context of a worrying increase in youth suicide in Ireland.”
Mr Moriarty said he found the glorification of bullying in schools to be particularly abhorrent.
Last April, Anne Dunne, the principal of Clonakilty Community College in west Cork, handed out one-day suspensions to 12 pupils after becoming aware of schoolyard “incidents”.
Although the school authorities rejected claims that at least a dozen first-year students were running a fight club and organising fights on a regular basis, footage of fights between the boys, captured on mobile phone, was sent to several phones and eventually examined by college staff.
The fights were watched by groups of classmates from the college.
The IVEA leader said while schoolboy fight clubs are surrounded in secrecy, videos of fights are often put on the internet as a form of grotesque entertainment.
“The intention is to bully, intimidate, humiliate and spread a culture of violence and I find this glorification of violence particularly abhorrent,” said Mr Moriarty.
Citing the case of Leanne Wolfe, the Cork schoolgirl who took her own life after being bullied for five years, he said that bullies very often pick on people they know they can defeat.
“They are part of a sub- culture that exists below the radar and the Health Service Executive or educational authorities must do more to combat it,” he said.