IT WAS a gesture done in an effort to be "open and transparent". The Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue was opening the files on 14 trips abroad plus countless internal flights booked on behalf of himself and his wife Kate Ann.

The €100,000-plus that was spent on flights, hotels and transport costs had been justified, a statement said, in trying to bring the Irish parliament up to the standards of other parliaments overseas.

The Bull's gesture was, in reality, anything but "open and transparent", as he was forced into an embarrassing public disclosure by the imminent release of the documents to the Sunday Tribune.

It was a damage limitation exercise – clumsily timed to coincide with the Lisbon Treaty – in an attempt to mitigate any damage done to the embattled Kerry TD's reputation.

For more than two months, the Sunday Tribune had been seeking details of all expense claims and all overseas travel involving the Ceann Comhairle and his wife Kate Ann.

On 29 July, the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission confirmed that all of the records would be made available to the Sunday Tribune but at a price. The cost was nearly €600 paid out in the form of a deposit of €117.32 and subsequently a balance of €469.28. The sum was being sought for 28 hours work in the "search and retrieval" process.

A letter from Margaret Crawley, assistant principal in the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, sent earlier this week, put the newspaper on notice that O'Donoghue was planning to "prepare his records for public release".

"In fairness to you," it said, "I wish to point out that, following the Ceann Comhairle's statement, the office began to prepare his records for public release.

"These records may become available at some stage next week. If this occurs, I will notify you and if you wish to obtain the records from that source through the Communications Unit, I will organise a refund of the full amount of the fee paid for 'search and retrieval' costs."

On Friday afternoon, the Sunday Tribune received an email from the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission stating that the files were now available for collection.

It was more than two months after the original Freedom of Information Request and they lacked nothing in detail, running to more than a thousand pages and cataloguing nearly €250,000 in overseas travel and expense claims.

Behind the scenes, O'Donoghue had been preparing his rearguard action, releasing the news on Friday evening, hoping that the following day's news-papers would be dominated by speculation over the result of the Lisbon referendum.

Just two hours after the records were officially handed over under FOI legislation, O'Donoghue and his staff at the Houses of the Oireachtas placed them in the Dáil Library.

A general statement issued just after 3.30pm informed "members of the media" that the records could be inspected within a quarter of an hour.

"The records of all travel, accommodation and related costs incurred by Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue TD since he was elected to office were today placed in the Dáil Library," it said.

"This is to honour the commitment made in his statement of 16 September to ensure that the work of the office of Ceann Comhairle should be conducted in an open and transparent manner."