A native of Lurgan, Co. Armagh, the Right Honourable Sir Donnell Deeny read Legal Science in Trinity after school at Clongowes Wood College. He was active in many university bodies including S.R.C., TCD Miscellany, D.U. Players and the College Historical Society of which he was elected Auditor at the age of 19 and representing which he became the only person to win the Irish Times Debating Trophy three times.
He was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1974 and practised there, taking silk in 1989, until his appointment to the High Court in 2004. He was knighted in 2005. He is now Lord Justice in the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. He is also a member of the Irish Bar and was appointed Senior Counsel in 1996, and is a member of the English Bar being elected a Bencher of the Middle Temple in 2006.
Sir Donnell has also been active outside the law, serving as High Sheriff of Belfast in 1983, Chairman of OperaNorthern Ireland, Trustee of the Ulster Museum, Director of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Director of Hearth Social Housing. He was the founding Chairman of the Ireland Professorship of Poetry which sends a distinguished poet to Trinity, Queen’s and U.C.D. in triennial procession. He is Deputy Lieutenant for the City of Belfast. He was Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland 1993 to 1998. He chairs the United Kingdom Spoliation Advisory Panel which advises Government and the museum and galleries sector throughout the UK on the return of art spoliated during the Nazi era. He was President of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.
He has written on a variety of cultural topics and his 270Judgments in decided cases in a variety of fields are available at www.courtsni.gov.uk.