The text of Paula's speech made at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, this morning follows:
"Thank you, Mr Speaker,
On behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party, I rise to honour and give thanks for the life of our much loved friend and esteemed colleague, Christopher Stalford.
Words cannot adequality describe the sense of pain and loss that is felt on these benches, for a man that meant so much, to so many of us.
On behalf of this Party, I express my deepest sympathies and send our heartfelt sorrow to his wife Laura, to his beautiful children and the wider Stalford family on the loss of a man who was so utterly devoted to them.
Nothing meant more to Christopher than his family. The pride and joy he felt for them was evident in every conversation we had. No one will feel the loss of Christopher more than his family and I trust and pray that almighty God, will draw near to them all at this time of unimaginable heartbreak.
In life people are born to take certain paths and Christopher was born to be a public representative. A duty he discharged with unwavering diligence, dedication and devotion.
First elected to Belfast City Councillor in 2005, Christopher was at home in City Hall, displaying a level of ability, far beyond his age. His talents and attributes were quickly recognised and he was elected the High Sheriff of Belfast in 2010 and Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2013.
In 2016, Christopher was elected to represent Belfast South in the Northern Ireland Assembly an area he was born and raise, to serve a community that meant so much to him.
Christopher’s joy came not in holding office, but in how he could use that office, to improve the everyday lives of those he was honoured to represent. As a proud working class man, Christopher championed the causes and the issues that mattered most to his constituents . He was their voice, their advocate and their standard-bearer.
In January 2020 when elected to become Principal Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, he remarked how anything in politics was truly possible.
It was beyond his wildest dreams that a working-class boy from Annadale, could hold one of the highest offices in this place. Christopher was determined to use his office, not for self, but to ensure that any young boy or girl from his background could too fulfil their full potential and achieve their dreams.
The heartfelt tributes from across the political spectrum showed Christopher’s dedication to stretching himself to build a genuinely shared future. He was confident in his unionism and his identity and was always prepared to provide leadership to keep Northern Ireland moving in the right direction.
Let us all shrive to honour his memory, by working together to achieve that shared future that Christopher dedicated his career to advancing.
I wish to thank parties of all shades for their kind words and moving tributes, it was the mark of the man that he had friends on all sides of this Chamber.
It is hard to imagine these benches and this party without Christopher Stalford, his wit, humour and grace encouraged many of us through the darkest of times.
I will be forever grateful for having the honour of calling Christopher my friend.
I will never forget his continued encouragement and steadfast reassurance.
I will never be able to fully repay his unwavering support and unimaginable kindness.
The people of South Belfast have lost one of their greatest champions.
Unionism has lost one of his greatest advocates
This Party has lost one of his greatest servants.
And I have lost a dear, dear friend.
Thank you, Mr Speaker."