Ballaghaderreen businessman, Sajjad Hussain, has announced his intention to run as an independent candidate in the Boyle area in May’s local elections, which it is thought will make him the first Asian person to seek a seat on Roscommon County Council.
Speaking to the Roscommon People earlier this week, Mr. Hussain, who is originally from Pakistan, outlined the reasons for his decision.
“A lot of people have asked me (about running). Before, I was thinking that maybe politics is not for me, but people convinced me so I started thinking seriously on it and then decided to run. If I can improve anything or do anything for the community and for the people then why not? I should try my best to do this,” he said.
The 42-year-old father-of-three said he has so far received backing from members of the Ballaghaderreen community and highlighted his work with various local groups.
“If somebody trusted me and gave me a vote and I became a councillor but I couldn’t do anything for them…that was a fear for me. But I kept discussing it with people and asked them to speak openly and I was surprised with how many told me to run”.
Mr. Hussain, who is married to Saima, is the current chairperson of Ballaghaderreen Tidy Towns and was also a member of the local group which last year won the Community Group of the Year award at the Rehab People of the Year Awards in Dublin for their work in welcoming Syrian refugees to the town. Mr. Hussain was also a founding member of Ballaghaderreen’s extremely successful cricket club, which won numerous provincial titles.
“I think people in Ballaghaderreen know me. I own the barber shop and at the same time I am involved in different groups so people know me in different ways and I have many friends here,” he said.
Mr. Hussain conceded that it would be a challenge to win votes in the wider Boyle Electoral Area.
“Some negativity is already there, and it’s a big area. Obviously people in places like Boyle, Tulsk, Rooskey and Strokestown don’t know me maybe. They may wonder what’s going to happen because I think this is the first time an Asian person will run. If something happens other than the usual it can take time for people to understand what is going on. The good thing is I’m not new in this community; I’m living eighteen years in this country and thirteen years in Ballaghaderreen,” he said.
Mr. Hussain believes more can be done for rural Ireland and Ballaghaderreen in particular when it comes to local commerce.
“If you go to Ballaghaderreen, half the town is empty. From a business point of view, every year local businesses are closing down. There are lots of reasons, for example it’s not easy for small businesses with rates and taxes. There’s lots of pressure on them”.
When asked what he thought his chances of getting elected were, Mr. Hussain said he was hopeful but vowed to keep working in the community regardless.
“I am very hopeful after the response I have got so far but at the same time I’m not living in any wonder world! I know what is in my hands and I can try my best and deliver what I can. I’ll leave it to the people, if they think I can improve anything they will vote for me. If elected I will try my best to do the best (for them) but at the same time if I’m not elected I will not be too disappointed. I will keep working and keep doing what I’m doing in the community”.