Not a name you’d see much in the Belfast or Dublin phone books, but Bob Van Ruyssevelt has long been one of NZ’s leading Irish republican activists.
Van Russeyvelt has been an agitator from way back.
In 1968, at Auckland University, he played a leading role in the radical Vietnam Peace Society. He was elected to the executive of the Student’s Association and was a friend and flatmate of arch stirrer, Tim Shadbolt.
In 1969, Van Ruyssevelt had to resign from AUSA after he and two comrades were fined $75 each for a capping stunt in which they stole landrovers from Waiouru Army Base.
The same year he was sentenced to 3 months periodic detention for involvement, with Bill Bone and John Bower in blowing up the Waitangi Flagpole.
The anti-Vietnam War protests were getting into full swing at the time. There were 13 bombings in a few months. Most targeted miltary recruitment centres, army storehouses and the like. There was some property damage, but nobody was hurt.
Several young men, mainly students, were arrested in connection with the campaign.
Kevin Bower was sentenced to 4 years borstal, John Bower was given 5 years in Paremoremo and Robert Van Ruyssevelt got 4 years at Paparua.
After his release, Van Russeyvelt disappeared off the NZ scene for a while and spent some time as convenor of a UK organisation campaigning for the withdrawal of British troops in Ireland.
In the early ’80s he was a founder member of the H Block/Armagh Committees /Information on Ireland and was a stalwart of the Auckland branch for many years.
In August 1989, Van Ruyssevelt wrote to the Socialist Unity Party’s “Tribune” criticising the Communist Party of Ireland for wanting to postpone armed struggle.
Van Russeyvelt made it clear he believed that violence was an essential part of the campaign to unite Ireland;
“The arduous political work that is carried on would be as futile without a corresponding armed struggle as it would have been in Vietnam, Zimbabwe or Nicaragua”.
True to his socialist ideals, Van Ruyssevelt was an early member of Jim Anderton’s crypto-communist New Labour Party.
He has stood for the NLP and later the Alliance Party several times, most recently in Te Atatu in 2005.