Politicians pay tribute to ‘dedicated’ MLA Christopher Stalford

The DUP politician has died suddenly aged 39.

Cate McCurry
Sunday 20 February 2022 15:51 GMT
Tributes have been paid to DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, who died suddenly aged 39 (PA)
Tributes have been paid to DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, who died suddenly aged 39 (PA) (PA Wire)

Representatives from across the political spectrum have paid tribute to DUP MLA Christopher Stalford following his sudden death.

The 39-year-old, who represented south Belfast, died over the weekend.

He is survived by his wife Laura and their four children.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis was among those who paid tribute.

“My sincere condolences to Christopher Stalford’s family and friends on this very sad news,” Mr Lewis said.

“As MLA and principal deputy speaker, Christopher was passionate about crucial issues that affected people across Northern Ireland and was dedicated to building a better Northern Ireland for everyone.”

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said friends and colleagues of Mr Stalford will miss his political contribution.

“His wife Laura and their four children are foremost in our thoughts and prayers this morning as they grieve the heartbreaking loss of a husband and father,” Ms O’Neill said.

“We have worked with Christopher over many years since he entered political life, first as a city councillor and then Assembly member for south Belfast.

“His friends and colleagues throughout the world of politics will miss his political contribution, and his constituents his local efforts and leadership across south Belfast.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he was “deeply saddened” by Mr Stalford’s death.

“He served the people of south Belfast diligently and with integrity, working tirelessly to improve housing and education,” Mr Martin said.

“I conveyed my sympathies to his party leader Jeffrey Donaldson earlier today, and my sincere condolences go to his wife Laura, children, family, friends and colleagues in the DUP.”

The SDLP postponed its party conference as a mark of respect to Mr Stalford’s family.

The spring conference had been scheduled to take place in Bellaghy on Sunday.

Christopher Stalford died suddenly over the weekend (Liam McBurney/PA)
Christopher Stalford died suddenly over the weekend (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Archive)

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also expressed his condolences.

“On behalf of the SDLP I want to send my deepest condolences to Christopher’s wife Laura, their four children and his wide circle of family and friends at this incredibly difficult time,” Mr Eastwood said.

“Christopher and I knew each other for more than 20 years and this news has come as such a shock.

“I don’t think there was a single political issue that Christopher and I agreed on but one of my defining memories will be his great ability to disagree well.

“You could have a storming argument in the Assembly with terse words and raised voices, but as soon as you left he would always have a wry smile and a laugh.

“This will be a difficult day for everyone who knew Christopher, particularly his colleagues and the wider DUP family.

“As a mark of respect, we have decided to postpone the SDLP spring conference.

“Today is a day for political parties to set aside enmity and terse words, and to remember that we are all people working hard and doing our best to serve the interests of the people we represent.

Colum Eastwood said the SDLP conference had been postponed as a mark of respect to Christopher Stalford(PA)
Colum Eastwood said the SDLP conference had been postponed as a mark of respect to Christopher Stalford(PA) (PA Wire)

“Christopher Stalford was someone who did just that.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie said news of his death was “absolutely tragic and shocking”.

He added: “In addition to his duties as an MLA, Christopher Stalford was a principal deputy speaker and his role was to ensure the smooth running of the business of the chamber, which he did expertly and with good humour.

“I worked with Christopher on many occasions and although we had differing political views, we never traded an angry word.

“He was someone I liked, respected and who worked tirelessly for his community and country.

“I know he will be greatly missed not just by his colleagues in his own party, but right across the political spectrum.

“On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, I would like to extend my deepest and most sincere sympathies to Christopher’s family and many friends and colleagues.”

Alliance party leader Naomi Long said: “Can’t find the words to express my shock and sadness at the passing of Christopher Stalford.

“Though political opponents, we were friends. Only last week we chatted about his daughter’s school transfer.

“Thoughts with Laura and Trinity, Oliver, Cameron, and Abigail. God bless.”

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