Northern Ireland news

GCHQ spy chief who worked on peace process to step down

GCHQ director Robert Hannigan is stepping down. File picture by Ben Birchall, Press Association

THE head of British spy agency GCHQ has announced he is to step down after just over two years.

Robert Hannigan is a former senior official at the Northern Ireland Office and previously worked as Prime Tony Blair's principal adviser on the peace process.

He told Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson he was leaving the role for personal reasons.

The 51-year-old said he has been "lucky enough to have some extraordinary roles in public service over the last 20 years", adding: "But they have all demanded a great deal of my ever patient and understanding family, and now is the right time for a change in direction."

GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), based in Cheltenham in western England, specialises in surveillance and is often referred to as Britain's 'listening post'.

Mr Hannigan, a married father-of-two born Gloucestershire, said "many lives have been saved in this country and overseas" by its work".

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