President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to Brother Kevin Crowley who retires today from his role at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin after over half a century of service.

The centre has provided meals and food parcels to tens of thousands of people since it was set up in 1969.

Brother Kevin, 87, has been a shining light for the homeless and people in need since then.

He decided to set up the centre after he saw men eating food out of bins in the city.

More than 900 meals are provided every day and 1,500 food parcels are handed out to people in need every Wednesday.

Brother Kevin said: "I'm sad really to be leaving the homeless people and the people that I have met down through the years, fantastic people, people with difficulties, sad stories, good stories."

Staff and and service users were emotional today as they bid farewell to a man they described as a "legend".

Maria Harmon, who works at the centre, said staff there were very sad to see Brother Kevin leave.

"I'm very sad, we're all devastated, we just thought we would never see the day that Brother Kevin has to go," Ms Harmon said.

Alan Bailey, Manager at the Capuchin Day Centre, said Brother Kevin was always the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night.

"The spirit of kindness and charity that he shows is unbelievable, he is never in bad humour, he is here first thing in the morning, he used to be in here at 4am every morning putting on the sausages," Mr Bailey said.

"We would come in at 6am and he would say good afternoon, he is that kind of person."

Brother Kevin with then taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the Capuchin Day Centre cycle team in 2012 (Pic: RollingNews.ie)

Over the years the centre has seen a sharp increase in demand for services.

Gareth Kenny, who uses the service, said Brother Kevin helped him when he needed it most.

"He helped me in every way, he gives me showers, he gives me clothes, he gives me whatever I want," Mr Kenny said.

"He helps me out with cigarettes and all, he's a good man."

President Higgins said Brother Kevin has led an "invaluable service providing essential food and compassion to those most in need".

"Pope Francis has spoken of a 'culture of indifference' and has challenged us all not to avert our gaze or to turn away from those who suffer on our shared planet," President Higgins said.

Pope Francis during his visit to the Capuchin Day Centre in 2018

"Brother Kevin, and those who work alongside him, in their work are meeting this challenge every day.

"May I take this opportunity to thank Brother Kevin and all those in the Capuchin Day Centre for their great spirit of shared humanity and determined pursuit of dignity, their practical work in the delivery of human rights for all our fellow citizens.

"May I wish Brother Kevin my very best wishes for the future on his return to his native Cork."

It is the end of an era at the centre today as Brother Kevin steps away and moves back to his home city of Cork.

Brother Kevin said he hopes his kindness and generosity of spirit will live on in the staff at the centre.

He said: "I hope that when I leave here the same dignity, the same respect will be given to people coming here."