Frank McGuinness was born in Buncrana in the Innisowen Peninsula, County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. He was educated locally and at University College Dublin. He first came to prominence with his play The Factory Girls, but established his reputation with his play Observe the sons of Ulster marching Towards the Somme which was staged initially in Dublin's Abbey Theatre and then internationally. It won numerous awards including The London Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright for McGuinness. McGuinness has also written new translations of Chekov's Three Sisters, Lorca's Yerma and Ibsen's Peer Gynt.
McGuinness wrote the script for the film Dancing at Lughnasa, which was based on Brian Friel's original awardwinning play.
McGuinness's first poetry anthology, Booterstown, was published in 1994. McGuinness previously lectured in the University of Ulster and UCD. He now lectures in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.