Tributes have been paid to a South Belfast SDLP man, credited with being the party’s first press officer, who died last month.

Jonathan Stephenson from the Lisburn Road was a former party chair, press officer and councillor, serving in North Belfast between 1993 and 1997.

The English-born trade unionist passed away on December 21. He was buried after a service at Roselawn Cemetery on December 24.

He became the party’s first press officer in the 1980s and described himself as being a “British born, English Protestant,” while urging the party to encourage more Protestants to join.

SDLP leader and South Belfast MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell said Jonathan’s passing was “extremely sad”.

“Our thoughts are with his grieving family as they come to terms with his death,” he said.

“Jonathan devoted so much of his life to helping people and serving the community during some of the darkest days of the Troubles.

“He was a diligent press officer for the party, before becoming chair of the SDLP and then answering the call of public representation. He was a good man and will be sadly missed.”

North Belfast SDLP MLA Alban Maginness, who served alongside Stephenson as a councillor, said he will be “sadly missed”.

“He was a great guy, very witty and had a great sense of humour. He was also a very, very fine writer and was a journalist and press officer for all his working life,” he said.

“He was a very good press officer for the SDLP in a time when press officers were a relatively new thing. He then went on to become a press officer for NIPSA but remained involved with the party as vice-chairman and eventually chairman.

“The service at Roselawn was a very nice tribute to him and well attended by members of the party and trade unionists.”

Jonathan is survived by his wife Marga and son David, daughter Patricia and stepson Owen.