Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill fined and banned for drink-driving

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Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill has been banned from the road and fined after pleading guilty to drink-driving.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard the 48-year-old was caught by police on the outskirts of the city at about 1am on September 10 while just under three times the legal drink-drive limit.

Prosecutor Chloe Shoniwa told the court that 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 with the legal limit of 22mcg.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court
Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard O’Neill was caught by police in the city on September 10 (David Cheskin/PA)

Solicitor James Mulgrew, representing O’Neill, told the court: “This was simply a bad error of judgment 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 and also the distance he covers each year.

Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC said O’Neill was three times over the Scottish drink-drive limit.

He told him: “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.”

Michael O'Neill
Michael O’Neill leaves Edinburgh Sheriff Court where he pleaded guilty to drink-driving (Jane Barlow/PA)

Sheriff Welsh banned O’Neill from driving for 16 months and fined him £1,300, giving him 28 days to pay.

He said that if the former Hibernian star had not pleaded guilty and the case had gone to trial he would have fined him £2,000.

Sheriff Welsh added that the driving ban had been cut from 20 months to 16.

He said O’Neill could further reduce the 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 became manager of Northern Ireland in 2012 and has led the side to unprecedented success. He guided them to the last 16 in their first-ever European Championship finals appearance in France at Euro 2016.

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

The manager signed a new four-year contract in March last year.

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