News of the sudden death of MLA Christopher Stalford on Monday was greeted with shock and great sadness across the political divide in Northern Ireland.

The 39-year-old father-of-four served in the Northern Ireland Assembly since 2016, representing south Belfast.

The DUP politician was a pro-life champion and eloquent advocate for the right to life of unborn babies. He had become the lead sponsor in Stormont of the Bill to ban abortion where an unborn baby is detected to have a disability.

Mr Stalford voted pro-life on all 6 occasions that the right to life issue arose since his election to the Assembly. DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson paid tribute to his party colleague, saying he was “born to be a public representative”.

The DUP leader mentioned his last conversation with Mr Stalford member, saying: “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.”

Alliance leader Naomi Long MLA said she found it hard to put into words her shock, sadness and devastation at Mr Stalford’s passing and said that despite their radically different stances on many issues they had “a warm, personal friendship”. She described Mr Stalford as a “genuine and funny person” who was dedicated to public service.

The Pro Life Campaign extends its deepest sympathies to Mr Stalford’s wife Laura and their four children at this very sad and difficult time, and we pay tribute to Mr Stalford’s selfless and consistent defence of the right to life. His sudden and unexpected death is a huge loss to the pro-life movement in Northern Ireland.