Tuesday 19 June 2018

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Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill given lengthy ban after pleading guilty to drink-driving

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

Laura Paterson

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has pleaded guilty to drink-driving.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard he was caught by police on the outskirts of the city at about 1am on September 10 and was around three times the legal drink-drive limit.

Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC banned O'Neill from driving for 16 months and fined him £1,300.

Prosecutor Chloe Shoniwa told the court that police officers had "reason to stop" O'Neill as he drove on the Edinburgh city bypass between Lothianburn and Straiton.

They breathalysed him and he was found to have a breath alcohol level of 65mcg compared to the legal limit of 22mcg.

Solicitor James Mulgrew, representing O'Neill, told the court: "This was simply a bad error of judgement on the part of Mr O'Neill."

Mr Mulgrew said O'Neill is "contrite" and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

He added: "He has no analogous record and no record to speak of with only one limited endorsement currently on his licence."

He urged the sheriff to take into account that the football manager has held a driving licence for 31 years.

Sheriff Welsh said O'Neill was three times over the Scottish drink drive limit.

He told the 48-year-old: "You do not have a record for this type of thing. I treat your prior record as being minor in the extent of this case.

"I am satisfied that you pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. You deserve credit for that as you have not wasted the court's time."

He said O'Neill could reduce his driving ban by a quarter by completing a drink-drive rehabilitation course, which his solicitor said he is willing to do.

O'Neill made no comment to reporters as he left the court.

He has led Northern Ireland to impressive success.

He guided his side to the last 16 in their first European Championship finals appearance in France at Euro 2016.

The team are due to play Switzerland in qualifying play-offs for the World Cup in Russia next year.

O'Neill signed a new four-year contract in March last year.

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