Both the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP and South Belfast MP Claire Hanna have expressed their sincerest condolences.
The SDLP has postponed its Spring Conference due to take place this afternoon as a mark of respect.
Colum Eastwood MP said: “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.
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“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. Christopher Stalford was someone who did just that.”
Claire Hanna said: “Like so many others I was profoundly shocked to hear this news today. Our prayers are with Laura, Trinity, Oliver, Cameron and Abigail at such a devastating time. Christopher was so proud of his family.
“I’ve known Christopher for going on 20 years. We served together as south Belfast Councillors for the Balmoral area and later as MLAs in the Assembly.
“In all that time I knew him to be an intelligent and witty man who loved to wind up political opponents but who was very likeable and who fundamentally lived and breathed for public service and politics.”
Ms Hanna added: “He loved representing people in South Belfast and I know many of the people he helped will miss him dearly too. We are thinking of his family, friends and colleagues in the DUP today.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for them all and I hope they can take some comfort in the impact he had and relationships he helped to build.”
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