A cotton swab, used to clean Michael Collins' face following his death, has been withdrawn from a planned auction next week.

The move followed a growing controversy about the planned sale, which was branded "appalling" by descendants of Michael Collins.

In a statement, the owners of the swab say they tried unsuccessfully over the past seven years to find an appropriate repository for it and other items that have been in the possession of their family for around 90 years.

The statement was issued to RTÉ News this lunchtime by auctioneers Mealy's Rare Books Ltd on behalf of their client.

As part of this process, the sellers say they approached the National Museum, other national institutions, experts and a number of individuals.

The vendor claims the institutions concerned refused to accept the items.

As a result, they say, they sought expert advice on insurance values and how best to secure the various items into the future.

The owners state that other than themselves, no third party has any right title and/or interest in the items and in particular the swab.

But they say that given the nature of current interest in these items and the swab in particular, they have decided to withdraw the swab from sale at this time.

They add that the swab will not to be gifted to any of the institutions formerly approached.

Former Fine Gael Minister for Justice Nora Owen, a grandniece of Michael Collins, said she was very pleased that the swab had been withdrawn from sale.

She said she hoped the decision would not allow the item to come back into the market place again, as it is not a suitable item for sale.