Irish lawyer, representative, administrator, and international business figure. He served as attorney general of the Republic of Ireland (1981–85), European Union (EU) commissioner (1985–93), and was appointed director general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) organization in 1993, and its replacement body, the World Trade Association (WTO), until 1995. A passionate advocate of free trade, he played a significant role in the international agreement reducing trade barriers completed in December 1993. In 1995 he became chair and managing director of Goldman Sachs International, the international arm of the major US investment bank, and in 1997 became chair of British Petroleum (BP). In 2006 he was appointed Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Migration.
Sutherland was non-executive chair of Allied Irish Banks plc (AIB) 1989–93, Ireland's largest banking group. Having overseen the merger between the former BP and Amoco in 1988, he then served as a non-executive director from 1990 to 1993 and deputy chair from 1995. He was also a board member of the multinational groups Investor, Asea Brown Boveri (ABB), until 2001, and LM Ericcson from 1996 to 2004. He became director of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and chair of the Trilateral Commission (Europe) in 2001. He was appointed chair of the London School of Economics Court and Council in 2008.
Born in Dublin, he studied law there at University College, and practised as a barrister 1969–81.
As a European Union (EU) commissioner 1985–93, he made his mark in the competition portfolio, taking an active approach to breaking down cartels in such areas as the airline sector.
In 2004 he was awarded an honorary knighthood,