By Martin Shipton
The bombshell allegation is contained in a respected Plaid member’s autobiography (Dr Carl Clowes). Plaid Cymru is alleged to have received a donation of £25,000 from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Dr Clowes is distinguished party activist who went on a four-man delegation to the North African country at that time.
He is also a public health consultant who co-founded the UK’s first community co-operative at Llanaelhaearn in Gwynedd, as well as the Nant Gwrtheyrn Welsh language centre near Pwllheli.
Dr Carl Clowes (left), Mabrouk Dredi from the Arab Socialist Union and Brian Morgan Edwards, pictured in Tripoli in 1976
Plaid Cymru says it has no record of such a donation, but Dr Clowes maintains he was told the money had been put into the party’s general fund.
Welsh Labour said it was “truly shocking” that Plaid figures had gone on a “pilgrimage” to Libya at a time when Gaddafi was funding terrorist groups across the world.
In his book Super Furries, Prins Seeiso, Miss Siberia – a fi, to be published on October 1, Dr Clowes tells how he went on the trip to Libya in 1976.
He was with Dr Phil Williams, an academic who served as a Plaid AM for South Wales East in the National Assembly’s first term and two other party activists: Brian Morgan Edwards, co-founder of the Welsh language music recording company Sain, and John Lewis.
Dr Clowes, now 72, is a board member of Public Health Wales and the Honorary Consul in Wales for Lesotho.
He was made an OBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours List for his community work and his two sons Cian Ciaran and Dafydd Ieuan are members of the rock band Super Furry Animals.
The autobiography states: “My political path wasn’t always the one that might have been expected, and when Brian Morgan Edwards invited me to join him in a delegation of Plaid Cymru members – with Phil Williams and John Lewis – on a trip to Libya in 1976, I had a surprise and saw an opportunity at the same time.
“After all, wasn’t this the country governed by the charismatic Colonel Gaddafi, with all the mystery and controversy surrounding him?
“At the time, Dr Phil was investigating how other countries managed their resources, and he’d looked at examples including Norway and Ireland before turning his attentions to Libya as the best possible example of how a country got the best of the big international companies.
“It was through this research that he got the invitation from the Socialist Union of Libya for Plaid to look at the possibilities for co-operation in education and trade, in particular the export of Welsh lamb, and they offered to pay for a visit.”
Dr Clowes states that he learned a lot about the country during the trip: “Gaddafi’s autocratic nature is well known to everyone, but despite his image in the first years of his ‘reign’, his record of introducing improvement in education and health for the benefit of the people was a commendable one.
“It also became clear that the heads of the health service were elected by the workers – something that appealed to me greatly… although apparently those chosen to be on the list had to be acceptable to the Colonel and his friends! The visit was one of defiance, and all of us realised that.
“But, on the positive side, the tour also offered an insight into a lifestyle that was very alien to most people in the west.
“What was unusual was the nature of the conversation towards the end of the trip, when our guide offered to find out how much of a contribution there might be for four pacifists to put towards their dream of independence, something Colonel Gaddafi embraced as a way of disrupting the status quo in the West.
“I understood from Brian that nearly £25,000 had arrived in Plaid Cymru’s coffers.”
Dr Clowes told the Western Mail: “The trip was Phil Williams’ idea, but it was organised by Brian Morgan Edwards, who invited me along.
“At the time I had been working as a GP in the Llyn peninsula, where I became aware of the links between a community in severe decline, with people moving away, and health morbidity, with high levels of mortality, elevated blood pressure, strokes, depression and diabetes.
“I was interested in visiting Libya, which had the best health care and education systems in Africa at the time.”
He said the group’s host had been a member of the Arab Socialist Union called Mabrouk Dredi, who had been assigned to escort them, showed them round and took them to tourist sites like the ruined Roman city Leptis Magna and meet government figures.
“We were in a big sports stadium between Tripoli and Benghazi, and waited quite a long time for Gaddafi to arrive.
“We didn’t meet him to shake hands with him. He spoke for an hour and a half, and although we couldn’t understand what he was saying, he certainly had an impressive presence.”
Dr Clowes said that at the end of the week-long trip, during which there had been a succession of conversations about improvements to public services in Libya and about what Plaid Cymru was aiming to achieve in Wales, there was a meeting between the Welsh delegation and a “youngish” Libyan official.
No money was asked for by the Plaid activists, but the official said the Libyans had liked what they had heard and would see what could be done to help.
A couple of months later, said Dr Clowes, Mr Edwards had told him that £25,000 had been received by Plaid, and that the donation had not been conditional in any way.”
Asked what he thought of the party accepting money from Gaddafi, who at the time was known to have supplied arms to the IRA, Dr Clowes said: “I understand the point being made, but I have learned over the years to look at things in their entirety.
“Sure he was an autocrat, but Libya had the best health and education systems in the whole of Africa.
“I’ve been involved in organisations that have accepted money from UK governments led by Thatcher and Blair.
“In the case of Blair, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost following on from his decision to invade Iraq.”
Gaddafi took over Libya in a 1969 coup, and saw the IRA as a comrade-in-arms fighting British imperialism.
The first proven connection with Libya was discovered in 1973 when the Irish Navy boarded a ship called the Claudia, off the Irish coast. They found five tonnes of weaponry supplied by Libya.
A Welsh Labour source said: “It’s truly shocking that senior Plaid Cymru figures led a pilgrimage to Libya to dictator Muammar Gaddafi for money at around the same time as he was funding militias and terrorist organisations across the world.
“The frank admissions in this book show clearly that Plaid Cymru hoped to emulate some of the despot’s policies here in Wales.
“While the West was pulling together to combat terrorism, Plaid politicians were cosying up with the brutal dictator and proud anti-semite in a cynical bid for funding.”
A Plaid Cymru spokeswoman said: “The trip to Libya was well documented at the time and since. There is absolutely no record or knowledge of any such donation being made to Plaid Cymru.”
Martin is Media Wales’ Chief Reporter. He specialises in controversial and investigative stories and has been involved in covering the National Assembly since its outset.