Former key Belfast adviser appointed to top job in British surveillance agency

New GCHQ head lists gaelic games among his key interests

Robert Hannigan: appointed head of GCHQ. Photograph: PA

Robert Hannigan: appointed head of GCHQ. Photograph: PA

Tue, Apr 15, 2014, 22:16

A key adviser to British prime ministers and Northern secretaries has been appointed head of the UK intelligence and surveillance agency, GCHQ.

Robert Hannigan (49) was based in Belfast with the Northern Ireland Office throughout the peace process, becoming its director of communications.

English-born but with strong Irish connections in counties Kildare, Cork and Galway, Mr Hannigan lists Gaelic football and hurling among his interests. His wife is from Co Wexford.

He was a key adviser to Tony Blair and worked closely with a number of Northern secretaries in Belfast before the Stormont institutions bedded down.

In 2007 he was appointed security adviser and head of intelligence, security, and resilience in the cabinet office in Downing Street from 2007. He was also member of the British Joint Intelligence Committee and chaired Cobra meetings on terrorist incidents.

Mr Hannigan said: “It is a privilege to be asked to lead GCHQ, an organisation which is so central to keeping the people of this country safe. I have great respect for the integrity and professionalism of the staff of GCHQ and for what they have achieved under the outstanding leadership of Iain Lobban. ”