Christopher Stalford: The MLA who advocated unionism from young age

The DUP politician has died suddenly aged 39.

Cate McCurry
Sunday 20 February 2022 13:45 GMT
Christopher Stalford MLA has died suddenly at the age of 39 (PA)
Christopher Stalford MLA has died suddenly at the age of 39 (PA) (PA Archive)

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South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford had been an advocate for unionism from a young age.

Mr Stalford, who has died suddenly at the age of 39, was a regular contributor to politics in the media from his teenage years.

Paying tribute to the father-of-four, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party colleague was born to be a public representative.

Elected to Stormont for the first time in 2016 and re-elected in 2017, Mr Stalford was involved with the DUP since his early 20s.

Christopher Stalford with his wife Laura and mother Karen in 2016 (Liam McBurney/PA)
Christopher Stalford with his wife Laura and mother Karen in 2016 (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Archive)

He was the principle deputy speaker of the Assembly since 2020 and represented the party in south Belfast for the last six years.

Mr Stalford was married to former dental nurse Laura and they have four children, Trinity, Oliver, Cameron and Abigail – who was born in 2018.

Born in Annadale Flats in south Belfast, he was raised by his mother Karen and father Clifford.

But his father died aged 26 from a bleed on his brain when Mr Stalford was seven.

He has three siblings, Angela, Erica and Glen.

Mr Stalford attended Ulidia Primary School and Nettlefield Primary School, Wellington College and studied politics and history at Queen’s University in Belfast.

Christopher Stalford, right, with the DUP’s Edwin Poots in June 2017 (Niall Carson/PA)
Christopher Stalford, right, with the DUP’s Edwin Poots in June 2017 (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Archive)

Following his graduation, Mr Stalford worked in former DUP member Jim Allister’s European office three days a week, and in Peter Weir’s Bangor office.

He then moved to the DUP press office for six years, and went on to the policy unit.

In 2005, he was elected to Belfast City Council aged 22, the youngest person on the council.

He ran for the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007 but did not get elected, and was re-elected to the council in 2011 and 2014.

Mr Stalford was one of the first DUP MLAs to publicly declare his support for Edwin Poots’s leadership bid last year.

Christopher Stalford after he was elected to Stormont for the first time in the 2016 election (Liam McBurney/PA)
Christopher Stalford after he was elected to Stormont for the first time in the 2016 election (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Archive)

He had been a close ally of former leader Arlene Foster before she was forced out of the top job, and said at the time that he hoped they could remain friends.

Earlier this year, Mr Stalford said he quit Twitter because the platform was “awful”.

He said the constant abuse and hatred was unhealthy.

In 2017, he faced criticism for failing to acknowledge that an Eleventh Night bonfire at Sandy Row was built too close to apartments.

The bonfire damaged the homes of Belfast residents, cracking windows at the Victoria Place apartments.

Speaking during an interview in 2018, Mr Stalford said he would “never leave or be pushed out” if a united Ireland happened.

He described Northern Ireland as his home, and said his family have lived in the province for hundreds of years.

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