Christopher Stalford remembered as 'South Belfast boy through and through' at funeral

Mourners from across the political spectrum gathered in Belfast on Saturday for the funeral of DUP MLA Christopher Stalford.

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

"Christopher was proud of his working-class upbringing," Rev Marty Gray told mourners.

"He was proud of being from down the road, not up the road", he added.

"When he went canvassing for the South Belfast seat he made sure everyone knew where he went to school so they could be sure he was a south Belfast boy through and through."

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, alongside party MPs and MLAs, were among the congregation at Ravenhill Presbyterian Church in south Belfast.

Leaders from across unionism in Northern Ireland, including Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie and Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, attended the funeral service.

Representatives from Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Green Party were also in attendance.

The death of Mr Stalford caused shockwaves across politics, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson among those who paid tribute to the Principal Deputy Speaker of the Stormont Assembly.

A crowd gathered outside the south Belfast church on Saturday to pay their respects to the DUP representative.

Sir Jeffrey said earlier that 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.

In a statement, Mrs Stalford and the wider family thanked everyone for their kind messages, which they described as having been a comfort at an incredibly sad time.