Tributes paid as well-known homeless man, 'Old Man Belfield', dies on UCD campus

Tributes paid as well-known homeless man, 'Old Man Belfield', dies on UCD campus

TRIBUTES HAVE been paid to a well-known Dublin homeless man who has sadly passed away.

70-year-old Michael Byrne was a staple around the University College Dublin campus for many years, and was affectionately known as 'Old Man Belfield' by the staff and students of the college.

Mr Byrne had been sleeping rough on the campus and the surrounding areas, and yesterday evening Cllr Anthony Flynn, CEO of homeless charity Inner City Helping Homeless, announced that a man was found dead in a sleeping bag that morning.

Following the sad announcement, University College Dublin took to social media where they confirmed the body found was that of Mr Byrne.

A spokesperson for the college shared an image of 'Old Man Belfield', taken by Humans of Ireland, and wrote:

"Michael Byrne, affectionately known as “Old Man Belfield” by students and staff, sadly passed away on Monday 11 January 2021.

"A fiercely private person, we thank those of you who quietly looked out for Michael.

"We will miss him around the campus.

"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam."

Reacting to the sad news, staff and students past and present shared their memories of Mr Byrne, with one man, David Farrell, saying it was "sad to hear".

"He was a gentle soul."

"I always remember seeing him around," Juno McEnroe wrote. "Before and after college. A silent guardian of UCD in his grey cloak. He never nodded or said hello back. But always seemed so harmless yet aware."

Louth Senator John McGahon wrote "I am so sorry to hear this. I was in UCD from 2010-2013 and worked in Centra. He would come there from time to time.

"I was thinking about him during the first lockdown and wondered how he was doing. Such a kind soul."

Several RTÉ journalists and presenters also paid tribute to Mr Byrne, with broadcaster Eoghan McDermott writing "Michael used to hang out on the grounds of RTE alot too, the canteen staff always looked after him.

"He never spoke that I heard but had a lovely gentle energy about him. RIP Michael."

Irish athlete Ciara Mageean wrote that she was "so sad" to hear of Mr Bryne's death, adding "I didn't know Michael, by the sounds of it not many people did, but anyone who spent time in UCD will remember him fondly.

"A quiet and private member of our UCD community.  Go bhfanfaidh sé i suaimhneas."

Many have called for a memorial of some kind to be placed on the campus in tribute to the "kind soul", with some suggesting a mural in honour of the man who was "part of the fabric" of UCD.