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Meet our Staff, Board Members, and Patron.


Walter Sutcliffe

A graduate of the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Music, London, and former Staff Director at Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf, Walter Sutcliffe has extensive opera and theatre experience, and has directed critically-acclaimed productions which have been seen in the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, France and Estonia.

As stage director, Walter has been a regular guest at the Oper Frankfurt, and has directed productions for Teatro Regio di Torino, Semperoper Dresden, Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, Theater Magdeburg, Theater Chemnitz, Di Capo Opera, New York (where he directed the American stage premiere of Leoš Janáček’s first opera, Sarka), Klangbogen Festival, Vienna (where he directed the Austrian premiere of Michael Tippett’s The Knot Garden), and the Royal Academy of Music, London, amongst many others. Debuts at Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Chile and Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires are also planned.



Clíona Donnelly

Clíona studied History at Queen’s University, Belfast, and then completed a MSC in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the University of Ulster. She previously worked for the Dublin Business School and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin before moving back to Belfast to join the Northern Ireland Opera team in March 2011. Clíona is a trustee of the Board of the St. Anne’s Trust and the Belfast Philharmonic Society.



Mark Irwin-Watson

Mark studied Humanities at the University of Ulster followed by a postgraduate (MPhil) in Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow. He spent 14 years in Scotland working in Marketing and Communications at the Citizens’ Theatre, Scottish Youth Theatre and the King’s Theatre & Theatre Royal (both part of the Ambassador’s Theatre Group). Mark returned to Northern Ireland in 2013 and since then has worked for Libraries NI and most recently, the Grand Opera House, as Theatre Administrator. He joined the Northern Ireland Opera team in August 2016.




Andrew Forsythe

A music graduate of Durham University, Andrew has previously held marketing positions with Northern Ireland Opera, the Lyric Theatre Belfast, and The Belfast Opera.


Judith Wiemers

Judith is currently finishing her PhD in musicology at Queen’s University Belfast. Previous experience working in opera dramaturgy include internships and freelance positions at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Staatsoper Hannover, Northern Ireland Opera and Landestheater Detmold.



Roy Bailie OBE Chairman

Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE Vice-Chairman

James Hunt

Ken Lindsay

Stephen Kingon CBE

Professor Dolores O’Reilly

Jane Wells


Sean Rafferty

Sean Rafferty was born in Belfast and brought up in Newcastle, Co. Down. He studied law at Queen’s University. Belfast, and soon after began his career in broadcasting. Sean is a respected arts broadcaster, having presented a variety of radio and television programmes on BBC Radio 3, BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Radio Ulster. Since 1997 Sean has been the regular presenter of In Tune on Radio 3.