John Ellis is a political survivor. He was first elected to Leitrim County Council in 1974 and to Leinster House in 1977 and he has been elected every time since – which is no mean achievement. He is now back in the Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency following the controversial splitting up of the county by the last electoral boundary commission. I put it to him that he must love politics to have stayed in it for so long. ‘Either I love it or I’m stone mad’ he quipped. ‘But I retain my enthusiasm for it and am looking forward to another election’ he added. The splitting up of Leitrrim certainly did not suit him electorally. ‘It was a disaster at the time and it took us quite a while to adjust to the new situation but you know it might not work out too badly. ‘The people of North Roscommon – from places like Boyle and Arigna for instance -have far more in common with South Leitrim than they have with South Roscommon and that’s a bonus for people like me’ he said. ‘For a lot of people in the north of Roscommon their local towns are Carrick-on- Shannon and Drumshanbo. South Roscommon is so far away they have more in common with the town in their local area.’ John Ellis realises that he has a major card to play with the electorate especially in Leitrim in that he is calling for Leitrim people to vote in a Leitrim TD regardless of their preferences – to ensure they have representation. ‘People in Leitrim have to think that way really but it’s very important that the people of North Roscommon feel that way too. A lot of people in North Roscommon feel that they have been ignored and (are) not being represented and I can offer them that too which is very important.’ Deputy Ellis says that the fear of a return to emigration is a real concern that he has come across on the doorsteps. ‘I hear the argument that Fianna Fail have been in Government for 10 years and (that) it’s time for a change. I would ask why change a winning team? There are people who have seen major positive changes over the past ten years and there are a lot of people who are afraid of change. What I’m hearing is that people are afraid of a return to the bad old days where our young people might have to go abroad to look for work again. That is a nightmare scenario for many people.’ John Ellis acknowledges that The Progressive Democrats could be under pressure in this election and says that his preference for the new Government is that Fianna Fail would win an overall majority. ‘I know that an overall majory is unlikely but the PDs may be under pressure this time. Overall in Government the PDs have brought in some things that Fianna Fail would not necessarily have brought in themselves while some other measures that might have been brought in were stopped for one reason or another – but I suppose that’s the price you pay for Coalition – but overall this Government has worked well.’ In terms of a future Government John Ellis says that a Fianna Fail-Labour Coalition would be acceptable if that’s the way the numbers fell. ‘It worked before and it would work again’ he said. In terms of the health service John Ellis says that things are not as bad as they are painted in certain quarters. ‘People are always talking down the health service but there are many people whom I have met who say they got an excellent service when they needed it. There are problems, sure – but they can and will be sorted out.’ The Leitrim-based TD also says that the scare stories about the economy in recent months are just that – scare stories. ‘It’s unfortunate that there are so many prophets of doom about the economy around in recent months. A lot of those speeches are politically motivated. On the issue of stamp duty it’s mainly a Dublin issue as very few houses in this part of the country attract stamp duty – however I will admit that the issue needs to be looked at. ‘Farmland in particular is affected and we will have to study that when we get back into government. However stamp duty on houses has not arisen as a major issue on the doorsteps so far and we must ensure that as a Government we do nothing to further raise the price of houses’. Deputy Ellis says that in terms of infrastructure there are great strides being made. ‘Look at the Sligo/Dublin rail line. There have been massive improvements in terms of the line itself and the rolling stock. The passenger numbers there are way up which is encouraging and a sign of a better service. ‘In terms of the main roads the N4 is taking shape nicely and when the Dromod-Rooskey bypass is completed it will be a fine national route into the west. ‘On the N5 the Ballaghadereen bypass will be completed for certain and this July we will have a route to take the N5 past the controversial sit at Rathcroghan which has proven a problem in the past’. However one of the big issues that Deputy Ellis wants to act upon is planning in North Roscommon. ‘We will have to address that situation’ he said. ‘The system as it stands is flawed. The An Bord Pleanala model is not working, especially in North Roscommon. Local needs are simply not being catered for and it is totally wrong that people with no local interest whatsoever can come in and object to almost anything that is planned. We are going to have to do something about that’ he said. ‘The biggest asset in North Roscommon/South Leitrim is tourist facilities and sensible development of those assets is what is needed.’ Deputy Ellis says that he is happy with the area that he has been given to canvass in North Roscommon. ‘Yes, I’m happy enough with the way things are going. We have had a fair distribution of the area and I am also confident that if we can get the vote out we will take two Fianna Fail seats here in the constituency.’ John Ellis says that he is confident that he will be returned to the Dail to continue his work after thirty years as a TD. ‘There is much work to be done still in terms of the development of this area. I am pledging to the people of Roscommon/South Leitrim that if they put John Ellis back into the Dail I will work hard on their behalf regardless of their location or backround. ‘I predict that the town of Boyle will be the next big success story in this region and I can see it being as successful as Carrick-on-Shannon has been in recent years. There is also massive potential in towns like Strokestown and Elphin and I am confident that we can oversee massive development there too in the coming years. ‘The best bet for the people in this constituency is to return two Fianna Fail deputies to Dail Eireann at this election. We have delivered unprecedented wealth over the past ten years in this country and we will continue to do so again over the next five’ he concluded.