‘This is not a game, it could end your life’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has delivered a stark warning to young people engaged in the social media craze of neknomination — “Give it up… it’s not a game. It could end your life.”

‘This is not a game, it could end your life’

Mr Kenny said he was “distraught” to hear the comments of the father of 19-year-old student Jonny Byrne, who died as a result of the craze at the weekend after downing a drink and jumping into the River Barrow in Co Carlow.

His father Joe spoke of how the family had been “destroyed” by his death and pleaded with young people to end craze.

Speaking in Galway, Mr Kenny said people should take Mr Byrne’s comments very seriously. “This is not a game and young people, regardless of their connections with social media, should just give up this. It’s not any kind of personal challenge to their benefit. This has the most horrific consequences… it could end your life,” he said.

Mr Kenny said the misuse of alcohol and substance abuse had created havoc in young people’s lives.

“This is not a game, this is not a joke. It has the most serious consequences…. alcohol is something to be respected, what is going on in terms of global neknomination is not something I could support in any circumstances.”

Yet there are still no signs of Government plans to tackle the widespread availability and abuse of alcohol being implemented in the near future. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been stalled as Ireland awaits a European Court ruling and a cross-border study on minimum pricing.

Plans to end the alcohol industry’s sponsorship of sport were kicked to touch and are unlikely to be implemented in the short to medium term, and the bill is not expected to be drafted until the summer.

Yesterday, senior ministers, pressure groups, and the medical profession all urged young people to stop binge drinking and put an end to the social media-inspired craze.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said while social media was promulgating “this silly game”, the real problem was the country’s attitude towards alcohol.

He said the “first responsibility is with the young people who are falling for a stupid ruse”.

His comments were backed by Environment Minister Phil Hogan who agreed that the removal of the neknomination pages from Facebook would be helpful.

Frances Fitzgerald, the minister for children and youth affairs, said the recent deaths were a symptom of Ireland’s attitude to alcohol and had to be taken very seriously.

Junior Health Minister Alex White, who is overseeing the Government’s efforts to tackle alcohol abuse, said this latest death highlighted excessive patterns of alcohol consumption which required decisive and innovative action.

Meanwhile, one of the country’s leading liver consultants has blamed the widespread availability of alcohol for the deaths.

Professor Frank Murray said Ireland had an enormous problem because drink “is cheap, very affordable and widely available to underage people who are drinking to excess”. He said as a father he was appalled that various drinking games were being promoted on the internet and warned of the acute dangers in taking alcohol in one go.

‘‘There’s a sort of recklessness among boys and younger men that they don’t really have a sense of the dangers associated with alcohol,’’ he told RTÉ.

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said the craze is wrong and dangerous and undermined efforts to implement the sensible and responsible enjoyment of alcohol.

“On the one hand, we would appeal to Facebook and indeed all social media platforms to take the necessary action to have it discontinued. On the other hand, we would appeal to the individual to take a greater degree of responsibility for their own actions,” it said.

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