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Swab used to clean Collins' corpse 'withdrawn from auction'

The owner of a swab used to clean the corpse of rebel leader Michael Collins has reportedly withdrawn it from an auction.

An auctioneer examines a lock of hair taken from the corpse of Michael Collins in 1922. Both the hair, and a swab used to clean his corpse after his death, have been withdrawn from auctions.
An auctioneer examines a lock of hair taken from the corpse of Michael Collins in 1922. Both the hair, and a swab used to clean his corpse after his death, have been withdrawn from auctions.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A COTTON SWAB used to clean the corpse of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins has reportedly been withdrawn from sale.

The swab, which was used to treat Collins’ body before he was laid in state at City Hall in Dublin after his assassination in 1922, had been up for sale at an auction in Co Kilkenny next week.

The proposed sale had been criticised by Collins’ surviving descendants, with former Fine Gael MEP Mary Banotti – Collins’ grand-niece – saying earlier this week that plans to sell the swab showed “a certain amount of disrepsect and sensitivity”.

“Whoever’s selling the swab… really, whatever about the hair, the swab is really appalling in my opinion,” she had told Tuesday’s Morning Ireland.

RTÉ News this evening reports that the owner of the swab has now withdrawn it from sale – explaining that they had originally tried to offer it to various museums and collections seeking to find a home for it.

In a statement sent to the national broadcaster, the owner said they had looked to give the artefact to the National Museum as well as other institutions, experts and individuals, but that all parties had refused to accept it.

They had tried to sell the swab, therefore, because they wanted to ensure that the item be taken on by an interested party who wished for it to have a good home.

A lock of the Corkman’s hair had been due to go up for sale in Dublin at a separate auction this week, but the owner of that item also withdrew it from sale after hearing of the family’s unease at the plans to sell it.

The hair, which was cut from Collins’ corpse by his sister as his body lay in state in Dublin, will now be donated to the National Museum.

Collins had fought in the 1916 Rising was interned in Wales. He was later elected a Sinn Féin MP for Sinn Féin, but abstained from Westminster and along with other Sinn Féin MPs instead took a seat in a revolutionary assembly which preceded the modern Dáil.

After the war of independence that followed, Collins – by then the finance minister in the cabinet of Éamon de Valera – led a delegation to London to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty which granted Ireland the status of a dominion with the British Empire, giving it a domestic parliament.

That treaty prompted De Valera to quit power, leaving Collins to become the Chairman of the Irish Free State. De Valera’s anti-Treaty side prompted a Civil War which claimed Collins’ life in an ambush at Béal na mBláth, Co Cork, in 1922.

Read: Collins hair ‘withdrawn from auction’ after family reveals sadness at sale

More: Washington defeats Michael Collins in ‘Britain’s toughest enemy’ poll

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Gavan Reilly

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