Christopher Stalford: Northern Ireland politician dies aged 39, DUP says | Political news

DUP politician Christopher Stalford has died suddenly aged 39, the party has announced.

The South Belfast (MLA) Member of the Legislative Assembly, married with four children, died over the weekend, DUP said chef Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Stalford was a rising star in Northern Irish politics and was often sent to speak to the media on behalf of the party.

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Mr Stalford pictured with his mother Karen and wife Laura

Sir Jeffrey said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Christopher’s sudden death. He was not just a chosen one or a colleague, he was a friend.

“On behalf of the party, I express my condolences to (his wife) Laura and the entire Stalford family on the loss of a husband, father, son and brother.

“I spoke at length with Christopher on Friday evening. He was passionate about Northern Ireland and wanted the best for his constituents.

“I was never to know how precious this conversation was going to be.

“The most telling of all in this conversation was his pride in Laura and their children.

“He talked about his eldest transferring to a big school and the talks that were going on at home.

“Christopher was born to be a public representative. From his teens he regularly contributed to politics in both print and broadcast media.”

DUP MP Christopher Stalford has died aged 39
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Mr Stalford was passionate about Northern Ireland, the DUP leader said

Earlier this year, Mr Stalford said he quit Twitter because it was “awful” and the constant abuse and hate was unhealthy.

He was one of the first DUP MPs to publicly declare his support for Edwin Poot’s leadership bid last year, despite being a close ally of former leader Arlene Foster, who has been forced to leave the highest position.

Ms Foster said she was ‘struggling to process’ Mr Stalford’s death as she sent her thoughts and prayers to his family, adding she would remember him as ‘happy and confident’.

Politicians on all sides have paid tribute to Mr Stalford, with many noting his good humor and ability to put differences aside.

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill said his death was “desperately sad”, adding: “On behalf of the Sinn Fein Assembly team, I send our condolences and express my sincere sympathy to his wife Laura and their four children who are foremost in our thoughts this afternoon.”

DUP chairman Lord Morrow said he has known Mr Stalford since he was a child and the party is ‘shocked and saddened by his death, but above all we are heartbroken for Laura, their four little ones Christopher’s children and extended family”.

The SDLP postponed its spring conference, which was due to take place on Sunday, as a mark of respect, with leader Colum Eastwood saying he had known Mr Stalford for more than 20 years and his death “was such a shock”.

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Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie said they had ‘different political views’ but ‘never exchanged an angry word’ as he praised him for keeping things ‘running smoothly’ of the Assembly in his role as Senior Vice-President, “which he did with competence and good humour”.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis sent his condolences to Mr Stalford’s family and friends, saying the DUP politician was ‘passionate about the critical issues ‘affecting Northern Irish people’ and dedicated to building a better Northern Ireland for all”.

Mr Stalford had been a regular political media contributor since his teens and had been involved in the DUP since his early twenties.

He was first elected to Stormont in 2016, then again in 2017 and became the Assembly’s Principal Deputy Speaker in 2020.

Married to former dental nurse Laura, the couple have four children, Trinity, Oliver, Cameron and Abigail, born in 2018.