The DUP MLA Christopher Stalford was one the good guys. He was always sincere in his politics, proud of the fact he’d always been a DUP man, but typical of a lot of later generation politicians in Northern Ireland who wanted to see it become a better place. Not least for his four kids, who anyone with eyes to see could tell he loved deeply and with great tenderness.
I’ll share just two statements which I think show the reach of his personality and his personal politics, one from his party leader Jeffrey Donaldson and the other An Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
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.
And from Martin:
I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of MLA Christopher Stalford.
He served the people of South Belfast diligently and with integrity, working tirelessly to improve housing and education.
I conveyed my sympathies to his party leader Jeffrey Donaldson earlier today, and my sincere condolences go to his wife Laura, children, family, friends and colleagues in the DUP.
The last time I saw him in action as Principle Deputy Speaker was during questions for the Minister for Communities (held by the co-opted SF MLA Deirdre Hargey for the same South Belfast constituency as him) this week, during which he chided one member of his own party for not getting to his question more directly.
He simply loved his politics and the democratic institutions that sit at the heart of a slowly reconciling Northern Ireland. He committed to everything to the fullest: his family, his politics, his loyal orders (chiefly the Orange and ABOD) and lent them all his good character.
There are others on the team who were closer to him than me, but I think I can confidently say that by friend and political foe alike, he will be much missed.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty