Expenditure row: John O'Donoghue spent some €350,000 between 2002 and '05

It's 4.29pm on Friday and the Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue is about to come out fighting: the man they call 'The Bull' is on the charge. Two months of revelations about expenditure incurred whilst he and his wife traversed the globe at the height of the Celtic Tiger era have been "totally inaccurate, misleading, exaggerated and disingenuous", he says.

Perhaps having a driver on call for 18 hours a day at the Cheltenham racing festival did not end up costing the taxpayer more than €10,000.

Maybe the former minister at the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism had not stayed in a succession of €900-a-night hotels or had not once flown to China on a flight that cost him €9,000 and cost his wife Kate-Ann the same amount.

Perchance, there never had been an €80 tip to the "Indians" for carrying the luggage, €180 for hat hire or even a €472 chauffeur-driven car to ferry him from one terminal of Heathrow airport to another.

The articles – published in the Sunday Tribune over the course of eight weeks – had "fundamentally misled the Irish people" according to the letter sent from his solicitors.

John O'Donoghue, grandly titling himself Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, was going to put the record straight, despite the shackles of his lofty position as figurehead of the country's parliament.

"[He] intends to ensure that the public record on such matters is corrected in a manner consistent with the proper discharge of his duties as Ceann Comhairle," the letter said.

The legal missive lacked nothing in its sense of timing. A day earlier, the Sunday Tribune had been provided with yet more details of O'Donoghue's travels as minister, this time in the period between 2002 and 2005.

The spending was once again extravagant – a vast sum of €350,000 spent on flights, hotels, transport and the government jet to send the former minister and his wife on a world tour to beat all world tours.

In one single year, O'Donoghue had travelled abroad on 19 occasions. He had been to the United States four times in a single year. He had been to Australia twice and had still made time for his annual pilgrimage to racing festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) request was scant on detail however, with all of the potentially embarrassing minutiae stripped away and just a blunt table of costs provided instead.

The original FOI inquiry in July for details of spending in 2006 and 2007 had yielded over 100 pages of documents: itineraries, hotel bills, flight receipts, transport details.

The second yielded just four pages: but it still provided a stark illustration of the fantastical costs involved in ensuring the every need and whim of John O'Donoghue was catered for.

By Monday morning, the Ceann Comhairle was ready to meet his detractors head on.

He had two months to carefully craft his letter of rebuttal, to reassure the other 165 TDs of the Dáil about how the Irish people had been "fundamentally misled" by this long series of revelations.

The letter arrived at 10am on Monday morning and began in an earnest tone: "I am writing to you and to other colleagues in the Dáil in the context of recent extensive media coverage concerning costs incurred by me as an office holder."

For more than a page, O'Donoghue explained how he could not have become engaged in public debate about his expenses no matter how "tempting" it might have been.

The Ceann Comhairle outlined how the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism had issued a statement explaining the overseas travel expenditure and said he did not have anything to add.

"I want to reassure you that I have at all times acted in good faith and with probity," he said.

The letter of explanation continued, explaining how O'Donoghue had been at the forefront in trimming expenses to members of the Oireachtas and pointing out that he had taken a voluntary 10% pay cut.

"I had not intended to draw any attention to the fact that I unilaterally and voluntarily took a 10% reduction in my salary," he said, drawing attention – both unilaterally and voluntarily – to the very fact of his pay cut.

"Finally on a personal level, I wish to acknowledge that some of the costs incurred appeared high," he opined, oblivious to the fact that the costs did not just appear high, but were in fact colossal.

At that, the Ceann Comhairle's letter went winging its way to his colleagues in the Dáil, as O'Donoghue hoped – against hope – that the controversy would at last disappear.

The initial signs were good. John Gormley of the Green Party welcomed the letter whilst neither Fine Gael nor Labour seemed interested in taking his scalp, despite saying the letter had not gone far enough.

Some of his Fianna Fáil colleagues were not so content and one TD, Mattie McGrath, said O'Donoghue had been "travelling around like a modern-day prince".

The following morning, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen fluffed his lines on RTé's Morning Ireland, saying the expenses controversy was a legacy issue and could not happen today.

But despite the public outcry, the Ceann Comhairle seemed certain to hang on. There was no mood amongst the opposition to fell him from his throne and all that remained outstanding was an actual admission, an actual apology.

That evening, O'Donoghue was to be found at his home from home – the horse races.

At Listowel racecourse, he made his first public comments, saying he had "behaved in good faith and with probity throughout". Quizzed as to whether he should apologise, he said: "In so far as one regrets something, I think that is an apology."

O'Donoghue could not quite bring himself to actually say sorry, the regal tone of "one regrets" insufficient to quench the fire.

On Wednesday, the Ceann Comhairle's plan to issue just a single public statement faltered on the altar of expediency as it became clear that his career could be saved by a single word.

A second statement was issued to the public, the media and to the Dáil. "I am sorry," it said.

There was no longer any mention of anyone having "fundamentally misled the Irish public", no talk of inaccuracies, disingenuousness or exaggeration.

"When I expressed sincere regret in my letter of explanation to members I meant it and I can assure members that I have no difficulty in expressing my regret and saying I am sorry," he wrote.

"I was not aware of the cost of these arrangements and when I read the detail in the past weeks I was embarrassed that such costs were associated with some of the arrangements made on my behalf.

"Moreover, I can fully understand how many people were shocked to read some of the detail. I apologise to these people, in particular, for the disquiet this controversy has caused."

And in the end, a single word saved John O'Donoghue.