Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has paid tribute to Christopher Stalford, saying it is hard to put into words her shock, sadness and devastation at the news of his passing.
Mr Stalford was aged 39 and leaves behind a wife and four children.
“Despite our politics often being radically different, Christopher and I had a warm personal friendship, with him often talking to me about his pride in his family,” said Mrs Long.
“Christopher was High Sheriff at Belfast City Council while I was Lord Mayor, and we carried that close relationship throughout the rest of our political careers. Just this week, we discussed his eldest child’s school transfer and it is difficult to put into words my shock, sadness and devastation just days later we are discussing his passing.
“He was a genuine and funny person, who was dedicated to public service. Christopher revelled in the role of Principal Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, carrying out his duties in an even-handed and fair manner, no matter the situation.
“My thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with Christopher’s wife Laura, his four children, the wider family circle and his party colleagues.”