Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Plaid Cymru has denied claims that a decision to suspend a councillor over social media posts represents a “muzzling of free speech”.
This week saw the party suspend Gwynedd councillor Gruffydd Williams, following allegation he’d been sharing material flagged up as “false information” relating to Covid-19 and vaccination on his Facebook page.
Plaid say they’re adamant there is “no room for misinformation” in society, stressing the need for everyone to protect the NHS.
But political party Gwlad – which is not known to have any links to Cllr Williams – claim that all he had done was encourage his constituents to undertake their own research into the situation rather then “just swallowing all the media propaganda”.
Cllr Williams’ suspension also means he has been removed from the council’s Plaid Cymru group for the time being, resulting in him no longer sitting on the authority’s planning committee due to membership being allocated to parties dependent on their share of seats.
According to Plaid Cymru, distributing messages which “endanger public health must be avoided at all cost”.
A party spokesperson added: “Everyone has a responsibility to protect the NHS, and elected representatives in particular have an important role to play in this regard.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Plaid Cymru’s sole focus has been on protecting lives and livelihoods and the roll out of the vaccine offers hope of better times ahead.
“There is no place for misinformation in Plaid Cymru or in wider society.”
But Gwlad – a right of centre, pro-independence party – claim that the “haste” to remove Cllr Williams “without due consideration” of his comments and their context “reflects badly” on Plaid.
A Gwlad spokesman added: “It’s as if they are saying, we are fine with the 24/7 fearmongering of the mass media, but if anyone dares express a counter opinion to all this, they have got to be purged immediately.
“It’s also a very patronising attitude towards electors – virtually telling that they can’t be trusted to look at alternative opinions and come to their own judgement on things.”
It is understood that Cllr Williams, who represents the Nefyn ward, has also been referred to the Public Services Ombudsman.
The posts that were shared on his personal Facebook page – several of which have been flagged up by the social networking site as false information – include articles and videos by Dr Mike Yeadon, who describes claims that the majority of the population is susceptible to Covid as “false” and clips suggesting that the number of people dying is “the same as it would be any other year”.
Responding to the condemnation of the posts, Cllr Williams said there are “too many questions that remain unanswered” and spoke of the need for a “reasoned debate”.
He also noted his concern that “everyone was heading for vaccines on the basis of propaganda and fake statistics”, urging the need for a “full and frank debate” on vaccination involving those of differing opinions.
A Gwynedd Council spokesman said, “We can confirm that Councillor Gruffydd Williams is no longer a member of the Plaid Cymru political group on the Council and does not represent them on the Planning Committee or any other Committee.
“This is as a result of implementing the wishes of the Plaid Cymru group and in accordance with the statutory procedure.”