Mr Justice Paul Carney’s comments come in the wake of two deaths over the weekend linked to neknomination — the social media drinking game.
He was speaking as he sentenced a Waterford man who, after drinking six to seven pints of beer, raped an acquaintance, having offered her a lift home from their local nightclub.
It was the latest case in a long line in which young men with no previous convictions, from good families, take a quantity of drink they are not used to and “end up the following morning facing responsibility for a homicide or a rape and it seems to be a lottery as to which it is going to be”, said Mr Justice Carney.
“It’s a male phenomenon. If the current internet drinking contest takes hold, it is going to result in a tsunami of homicide and rape prosecutions coming before this court.”
As political pressure built after the deaths of Jonny Byrne, 19, from Carlow, and DJ Ross Cummins, 21, in Dublin, Facebook rejected demands to remove pages and videos linked to neknomination.
Mr Byrne drowned after taking part in the stunt which sees people being challenged to post a video online of them downing drinks, then nominating others to do the same inside 24 hours. He had posted a video of himself drinking a pint shortly before he entered the River Barrow on Saturday night. His father Joe made an appeal to everyone associated with neknomination to stop as it had cost his son his life.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny also warned of the dangers of the potentially lethal fad.
“This is not a game and young people, regardless of their connections with social media, should just give up this,” he said. “It’s not any kind of personal challenge to their benefit. This has the most horrific consequences — it could end your life…
“Again I would say to young people all over Ireland, take note of what the father of that young boy who lost his life said. This is not a game, this is not a joke. While alcohol is something to be respected, what is going on in terms of global neknomination is not something I could support in any circumstances.”
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte called on Facebook to act after hitting out at what he called a “stupid and silly game” which had “tragic consequences”.
However, Facebook declined to remove any of the content, stating it does not breach its rules on harmful content. The social media giant said the craze was not unique to its site but advised users that they could hide, block, remove, or report messages or activity they found offensive.
Union of Students in Ireland president Joe O’Connor said: “We have no issue with the call on Facebook to act, but you can regulate social media until the cows come home, but this is synonymous with a wider issue of alcohol abuse in Ireland and that’s something we need to address and tackle.”
Frank Murray of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland said more deaths are likely if something was not done to tackle excessive binge drinking. “We are greatly saddened by the recent deaths associated with excessive drinking fuelled by neknomination. Sadly, this extreme binge drinking will likely lead to more deaths.”
The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said the craze was proof the sale of cheap alcohol was “out of control”.