SDLP Deputy Leader Nichola Mallon has led SDLP tributes to Christopher Stalford MLA in the Assembly.
The SDLP Infrastructure Minister extended condolences to Mr Stalford’s family, friends and party colleagues on behalf of the SDLP.
North Belfast MLA Ms Mallon said:
“This is a very sombre day for our Assembly, but particularly for Christopher’s friends and colleagues in the DUP. We know what it’s like to lose a friend suddenly and our thoughts are with you all today.
“I have known Christopher Stalford for more than a decade. We both served on Belfast City Council together and later as representatives in this house. In all that time, I got to know a man who was challenging, argumentative, some may even say combative during debates, but also a man who was kind, quick witted, fiercely intelligent and very, very funny.
“When I think about Christopher, I think of the word unique, Christopher Stalford was unique, he loved politics, he loved being a public representative. He enjoyed the cut and thrust of debate more than any other member of this house, there probably isn’t a member here who hasn’t been on the receiving end of a sharp retort or even just a withering glance during a contribution. But disagreements were always, always followed by a wry smile and a laugh afterwards.
“As much as he enjoyed public life and helping people, it was clear to anyone who spoke to Christopher, even just in passing, how much he adored his family. His love for Laura, Trinity, Oliver, Cameron and Abigail just radiated from him whenever he spoke about how the children were getting on or what they’d been up to at home.
“We all feel a sense of loss today but the loss of a young husband and father will be felt most acutely by those he loved the most. I hope they can take comfort from the incredible legacy that Christopher leaves behind, the warmest regard in which his colleagues from every political tradition held him and the real difference he made to the lives of so many people.”