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Donal O’Donnell set to be new chief justice
Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell (third from left) Pic: RollingNews.ie

28 May 2021 / judiciary Print

Judge O’Donnell set to be new Chief Justice

Supreme Court judge Donal O'Donnell is set to become the next Chief Justice, after the Government approved his nomination at its meeting today (28 May).

If appointed, he will replace Frank Clarke, who will step down later this year after reaching the retirement age of 70.

The Government had set up an advisory committee to invite and consider expressions of interest in the position before making recommendations.

EU experience

Mr Justice O'Donnell was born in Belfast and educated at St Mary's CBS, UCD, King's Inns and the University of Virginia in the US.

He was called to the Bar of Ireland in 1982, started practice in 1983, and was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1989.

In 1995, he was appointed a senior counsel, and has practised in all of the courts of Ireland, in the Court of Justice of the European Union, and in the European Court of Human Rights.

He was a member of the Law Reform Commission from 2005 to 2012.

He has published articles on a variety of legal topics in the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, The Irish Jurist, the Dublin University Law Journal, The Irish Judicial Studies Journal, and has contributed to volumes of essays on legal issues.

He was a director of Our Lady's Hospice from 2009 to 2014 and is the current chair of the Judges' Library Committee, a member of the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland, and of the Council of the Irish Legal History Society.


In 2009, he became a Bencher of the Honorable Society of King's Inns. 

Mr Justice O'Donnell was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in 2010.

His father, Lord Justice Turlough O'Donnell, was a member of the Northern Ireland High Court and the Court of Appeal between 1971 and 1990, and was later a member of the Law Reform Commission. 

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