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Friday 29 August 2014

'Home loan hero' Hall gets €1.5m from Lifeline

PHILIP RYAN

Published 30/03/2014 | 02:30

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David Hall

HIGH-PROFILE mortgage crusader David Hall and his wife raked in almost €1.5m in salaries and fees from their private ambulance company in the last five years, the Sunday Independent has learned.

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The so-called 'home loan hero', who announced last week that he was considering running in the by-election sparked by Patrick Nulty's shock resignation, runs a multi-million euro emergency service firm with his wife, Sue.

Lifeline Ambulance Services received €1.9m from the HSE for operating emergency transport vehicles across the country last year.

HSE emergency service response times have been under the spotlight in recent weeks after a number of failings put lives at risk.

A Prime Time investigation last week (which concerned the HSE-run ambulance service rather than private operators) revealed how areas of the country are being left without ambulances while vehicles worth €100,000 are not being efficiently operated.

Mr Hall, who worked as a paramedic before setting up his company, has argued that the HSE would save as much as €30m if it used more private firms.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Hall said: "We are saying plainly that the sensible approach from an economic perspective, and to save lives and to protect the public and protect staff, is to outsource the routine transfers, then use existing staff and vehicles to do 999 work to HIQA standards.

"The HSE has decided, in cahoots with Siptu, to keep the stuff in-house to themselves at a much higher cost to the taxpayer."

Mr Hall's firm is the largest private operator supplying ambulances to the HSE. It boasts a fleet of more than 40 vehicles and employs 72 staff.

The company's 2012 annual accounts show the firm's directors – Mr Hall and his wife – received €237,965 in salary payments and an additional €68,000 in fees. The previous year, they shared the same salary payment, along with €168,000 in fees.

Mr Hall lost a High Court challenge he took against the HSE when it decided to reduce its reliance on private firms to supply ambulance services.

His legal team argued that the decision to dramatically reduce its spending on private ambulances was anti-competitive and would eventually eliminate Mr Hall's company from the market.

Mr Hall made a name for himself in the wake of the mortgage crisis by offering advice to homeowners with distressed property loans.

His first incarnation was New Beginning – a mortgage advice organisation that he established with barristers Vincent P Martin and Ross Maguire in 2010.

The trio championed the cause of the average homeowner trying to avoid repossession in the face of mounting arrears on Celtic Tiger mortgages.

However, the 41-year-old parted company with the organisation he had set up with his two friends following a disagreement over the direction the advocacy group was taking.

Mr Hall claimed "external influence" was responsible for the organisation's new approach and he did not agree with plans to charge clients for advice on personal insolvency.

He has since moved on and now runs the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO), again a non-profit company, taking on the banks on behalf of homeowners struggling to pay debts.

The businessman established the Irish arm of the Make A Wish charity and chaired The Marie Keating Foundation, which was set up by Boyzone singer Ronan Keating following the loss of his mother to cancer.

He is also a director of the exclusive Fitzwilliam Casino and Card Club in Dublin.

The Blanchardstown native, who now lives with his wife and twin daughters in Castleknock, is a regular contributor to broadcast debates and is frequently quoted in newspapers.

He was a member of Fianna Fail but quit in 2008 after growing disillusioned with the party's handling of the economic crash.

Mr Hall has since been approached by all major political parties, but insists he will run as an independent candidate if he decides to put his name on the ballot paper in the forthcoming Dublin West by-election.

Sunday Independent

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