Breaking: DUP MLA Christopher Stalford dies aged 39

South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford has died aged 39, the Democratic Unionist Party has announced.

By Mark Rainey
Sunday, 20th February 2022, 12:57 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th February 2022, 4:48 pm

Mr Stalford has represented the DUP at Stormont since 2016, having previously been a city councillor for the Balmoral area since 2005.

Married to Laura, the couple have four young children – all below secondary school age.

He was the council’s youngest ever High Sheriff when elected to the post in 2010 aged 27, and served as Lord Mayor in 2013/2014.

The DUP's leader and chairman have paid glowing tributes to Christopher Stalford

Mr Stalford was educated at Wellington College and Queen’s University Belfast.

His political career was entirely within the DUP and he was listed as a potential party leader following the departure of Arlene Foster last year.

He worked in the office of Jim Allister when the TUV leader was a DUP MEP and later became a party researcher and press officer.

Mr Stalford was known to be close to Mrs Foster but would also be seen as socially conservative on issues such as abortion and LGBT matters.

Christopher Stalford MLA, who has died at the age of 39

In 2018 he faced public criticism from his own Free Presbyterian minister at the Martyr’s Memorial Church in Belfast, for attending a GAA match with Arlene Foster in Co Monaghan on a Sunday.

In May last year, he said he had made the “very difficult” personal decision to back Edwin Poots to take over from Mrs Foster as party leader.

He was active on Facebook as recently as Friday when he posted a message saying he was in “regular contact with the PSNI regarding anti-social behavious and have asked for extra patrols and support in all areas of my constituency”.

In a statement, the DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and Party Chairman Lord Morrow have paid tribute to Mr Stalford.

Sir Jeffrey said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of Christopher’s sudden death. He was not just an elected representative or a colleague, he was a friend.

On behalf of the party, I express my sympathies to Laura and the wider Stalford family on the loss of a husband, father, son and brother.

“I talked at length with Christopher on Friday night. He was passionate about Northern Ireland and wanted the best for his constituents. I was never to know how precious that conversation was to be.

“Most telling of all in that conversation was his pride in Laura and their children.

“He talked about his eldest child transferring to big school and the discussions that were ongoing in the home.

Christopher was born to be a public representative. From his teenage years he was a regular contributor to politics both in the print and broadcast media.

“He was elected as a Belfast City Councillor in 2005 to represent the Laganbank area and then from 2014 represented the Balmoral area.

“Christopher was elected the High Sheriff of Belfast in 2010 and Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2013/14.

“In 2016, Christopher was elected to represent Belfast South in the Northern Ireland Assembly and from January 2020 served as the Principal Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

“Christopher believed in stretching himself to build a genuinely shared future. He was confident in his unionism and his identity and was always prepared to provide leadership to keep Northern Ireland moving in the right direction.

“The Stalford family will be in our prayers as they mourn Christopher’s passing.”

DUP chairman Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley said: “I’ve known Christopher since his childhood. His family have been faithful members of the party from its foundation.

“As a party, we are shocked and saddened by his death but most of all we are heartbroken for Laura, their four little children and Christopher’s wider family who will feel this loss most keenly.

“We are praying that the God of all comfort will be with the Stalford family at this difficult and sad time as they mourn the sudden and unexpected passing of one who was so dear and precious to them.

“From his earliest days, Christopher was immersed in the politics of Northern Ireland. He was a committed unionist and was always destined to be an elected representative because he had a heart for the people, public service and making Northern Ireland better.

“We thank those across the political spectrum for their condolences and thoughtfulness.

“We ask that Christopher’s family are given privacy and space to grieve.”

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