Northern Ireland

NekNomination death: NI drinking game web page discontinued

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Media captionThe site showed people take part in drinking challenges

A Northern Ireland-based social media page sharing videos of an internet drinking game is to be discontinued after the death of an Irish teenager.

Jonny Byrne, who was 19 and from County Carlow, died after jumping into the River Barrow in Carlow on Saturday.

His family said he had been playing the game known as 'NekNomination', in which people are encouraged to drink alcohol before posting a video online.

An NI NeKNomination Facebook page is to become an alcohol awareness page.

It follows an emotional appeal by the teenager's family and warnings from politicians on both sides of the Irish border about the dangers of taking part in the drinking game.

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Image caption Jonny Byrne, 19, died after entering a river in County Carlow on Saturday night
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Media captionHis brother, Patrick, spoke to BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme

Jonny Byrne entered the River Barrow on Saturday night and after hours of searching, his body was recovered shortly after 11:00 GMT on Sunday.

His brother, Patrick, told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme on Monday that he was with Jonny when he went into the river.

"I jumped in to try and save him and I had him nearly out, but he broke free from me and pushed me under the water, and I was nearly gone only for my girlfriend and a passerby jumped in and pulled me out," he said.

'Form of bullying'

"Only I had someone with me on Saturday night, my parents would be waiting for their two sons to come back to the house."

He believes NekNomination has "turned into a form of bullying".

"People are now just doing stupid acts to try to better each other," he said.

"There was a girl in Carlow who jumped into the river and was pulled out by her friend - she jumped in in a Batman suit - and there was another chap who got into a slurry tank and had to be pulled out by his friend. He nearly passed out with the fumes.

"A guy who turned down a challenge last week was called a chicken and a coward for turning it down.

"Basically what it has turned into now is a bullying competition.

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Media captionJonny's father, Joe, pleaded to young people "to think of the things they're doing"

"Anyone who is doing it should stop."

He said he had launched a social media campaign to try to get 'NekNomination' pages taken down.

"I've had emails and messages from people from the States to New Zealand to Australia, it's spread so quickly in 24 hours," he said.

"It can do nothing for my family, the tragedy has already happened to our family, but if I can stop it happening to one other family, to save them from the heartache and pain we're going through right now, that's all I can do."


The teenager's father, Joe Byrne, told Irish state broadcaster RTÉ: "I'm pleading to every youngster to think of the things they're doing.

"It has cost my son his life. The whole family is devastated and our lives will never be the same again.

"I hope this message is heeded because for us, life is virtually over," Mr Byrne said.

The Northern Ireland Neknomination page on Facebook was set up last Tuesday to "showcase" videos of the drinking game in Northern Ireland.

More than 10,000 Facebook users 'liked' or indicated their support for the page in less than a week.

However, on Monday, those behind it said it would be discontinued and run instead as an alcohol awareness page on the social networking site.

Lethal combination

A spokesperson involved in creating the page told the BBC: "We made the decision a few nights ago to no longer continue to run the page the way it was originally set up.

"All videos have been removed and we'd like to continue as a Neknomination awareness page, highlighting the dangers surrounding the game."

A Facebook spokesman later said the site aimed to be a platform for people to share freely whilst still protecting the rights of others.

"We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but controversial or offensive behaviour is not necessarily against our rules," the spokesman said.

"We encourage people to report things to us which they feel break our rules so we can review and take action on a case by case basis.

"We also give people the ability to remove themselves from an uncomfortable conversation through tools such as untagging and blocking."

Alex Bunting from the Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA) said: "We've seen a full 10-glass bottle of Tequila being drank with a pint of milk.

"We've seen other things - motor oil being added to the nominations.

"So I think people have to be very aware that they're very toxic substances, they're not for consumption by humans."

The Irish minister for children, Frances Fitzgerald, has said she is very concerned about the danger the Neknomination game poses to young people.

She told RTÉ she believes the game is a lethal combination of peer pressure and excessive alcohol consumption.

In Northern Ireland, Alliance Youth tweeted: "With the growing popularity of 'neknomination' videos, we urge all young adults to be responsible and safe when drinking alcohol."

It is believed that NekNomination began in Australia, and has spread to the UK and Ireland.

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