DUP Assembly Member Christopher Stalford to be laid to rest today

DUP Assembly Member Christopher Stalford to be laid to rest today

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford is to be laid to rest this afternoon following a funeral service at a Belfast church.

The 39-year-old father of four died suddenly last weekend.

Stalford had represented the Belfast South constituency in the Northern Ireland Assembly since 2016 and had served as Principal Deputy Speaker in the Assembly since 2020.

His death caused shockwaves across politics, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill and Lord Mayor of Belfast Kate Nicholl among those who paid tribute to the Principal Deputy Speaker of the Stormont Assembly.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party was devastated by the loss of "our dear friend and much loved colleague".

Describing him as a loving husband, father and son, Sir Jeffrey said first and foremost their thoughts and prayers are with Mr Stalford’s wife Laura, their four children and wider family.

"On behalf of the Sinn Féin Assembly team I extended my condolences and expressed my sincere sadness to the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson on the sudden passing of his party colleague and Assembly member, Christopher Stalford," O'Neill said.

"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."

Laura Stalford said the messages of comfort of support had been overwhelming over the past week since his death was announced

"It is uplifting to read such heartfelt memories and tributes to the wonderful man we all knew and loved," she said in a statement on Facebook.

"I know when the children look back they will be so proud of their daddy they described as 'the best dad in the world'.

"We would like to thank everyone as their kind words are helping more than they will ever know," her statement added.

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

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

In 2016, Stalford 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.

The funeral service is set to take place at Ravenhill Presbyterian Church in south Belfast on Saturday afternoon, following a private service in the family home.