Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has paid tribute to Seamus Close, who has passed away.
Mr Close (71), a former Deputy Leader of the party, died after a short battle with liver cancer. He was Lagan Valley MLA until 2007 and the first non-unionist Mayor of Lisburn. A recipient of the OBE for his services to politics and a Freeman of the city of Lisburn, he retired from politics in 2006.
"He was Deputy Leader when I joined the party and was one of the most encouraging voices in helping me do so," said Mrs Long.
"People didn't always like the message Seamus was giving but respected the fact he was a straight talker and a fierce debater. He was an astute politician who was an advocate for ordinary people. He put in the hard yards in negotiations, including leading to the Good Friday Agreement, but never lost the energy he had for helping people and creating a shared future for Northern Ireland.
"Seamus was someone I had huge affection for and I am genuinely really sad to hear this news today. While his politics was important to him, his family were always the priority for Seamus, and my thoughts are with them today."
Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn, who succeeded Mr Close as to the position, said it was a sad day for everyone in Alliance.
"Not only was Seamus a close friend in politics but he remained my best friend after his retirement. It is a sad day for everyone in the party but particularly the Lagan Valley Association, who knew him well.