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Irish footballer pleads guilty to benefit fraud

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Ian Bermingham
Ian Bermingham

A LEAGUE of Ireland football star has pleaded guilty to fraudulently claiming more than €4,000 in dole payments.

Ian Bermingham, who plays for reigning FAI cup winners St Patrick's Athletic, appeared at Dublin District Court today.

The 26-year-old was charged with benefit fraud in a prosecution brought by the Department of Social Protection.

The professional footballer has refunded the money and will be spared a criminal conviction as well as a possible sentence if he donates €250 to Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin.

The left-back pleaded guilty to six counts under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act for concealing the fact that he was in employment on dates in 2011, 2012 and 2013 while was obtaining the Jobseeker's Allowance.

Bermingham, of Rossmore Avenue, Ballyfermot, in Dublin, remained silent during his hearing, however, his solicitor Wayne Kenny told the court he was pleading guilty.

Prosecution solicitor Edel Haughton told Judge John O'Neill that this was the second listing of the case which, “related to working while claiming Jobseeker's Allowance”.

She said the total was €4,512 but she confirmed that the money has now been repaid in full.

Mr Kenny said it was a misunderstanding and his client “genuinely believed that, because he was working part-time, he was entitled to the payment”.

Mr Kenny said Bermingham was “extremely embarrassed to be here today”. Pleading for leniency Judge O'Neill was asked to note that Bermingham needs to be able to travel for work and the defence lawyer also said he did not expect his client would ever be before a court again.

The dates of the offences stated on the charges are: February, March, July and August in 2012, February and March the following year, and April 27th until May 24th in 2011.

The offence can result in a fine of up to €2,500 and or a six-month sentence.

Judge O'Neill said he was taking into account the guilty plea, the fact that the money has been repaid and that the defendant occasionally has to travel outside the country. He told Bermingham he must donate €250 to the children's hospital and the case was adjourned until September.

He also said he will strike it out if Bermingham complies with the order. The judge excused him from having to attend court on the next date if the money has been paid by then.

Mr Kenny, of French Kenny Solicitors, withdrew an application for free legal aid.