If the Iowa Senate won’t honor Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Art Cullen of Storm Lake, the Irish Senate will be proud to do it, says an Irish lawmaker.
Sen. Mark Daly, who is affiliated with the Irish Fianna Fáil party, told the Des Moines Register in a telephone interview from Ireland on Tuesday he will be working on drafting a resolution to recognize the Cullen family and it could be approved by the Irish Senate as early as Thursday.
“We take great pride in the achievements of the Cullen family,” whose ancestors hail from Kilkenny, Ireland, said Daly, who is officially a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, the Irish Overseas and Diaspora.
The 3,000-circulation Storm Lake Times is co-owned by Art Cullen and his older brother, John Cullen, who is the publisher. Art’s son, Tom Cullen, is a reporter.
Daly called Art Cullen on Monday to express his interest in recognizing the Cullen family after learning that the Republican-led Iowa Senate had not acted on Senate Resolution 108.
MORE: Small-town Pulitzer Prize winner snubbed by Republican-led Iowa Senate
The Iowa measure would have honored and congratulated the editor of the Storm Lake Times for his 2017 Pulitzer-winning work. The resolution was introduced Feb. 14 by Sens. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids, and David Johnson, I-Ocheyedan, but has remained stalled in a Senate committee ever since.
Cullen said Daly told him that Ireland is one nation, “and you are of our nation … If your own state won’t recognize you, tell them that an entire nation stands with you.”
The Pulitzer Board had praised Cullen last year for “editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.” But Cullen’s work also stirred controversy, offending local officials, farmers and advertisers — and lots of Republicans.
State Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, told the Register last week he gets along well with Cullen. But he added that the Storm Lake Times editor, “is not one of our favorite newspapermen.”
“He is critical of anything that Republicans do, starting with Donald Trump and (U.S. Rep.) Steve King,” Segebart said.
Iowan’s ties — and work — celebrated in the Irish Senate
In remarks on the Irish Senate floor Tuesday, Daly asked his colleagues to support a motion to recognize the Storm Lake Times. He noted that the Cullen family has ties to Ireland dating back five generations. He suggested that the Iowa Senate had refused to honor the Cullens because the newspaper had been critical of President Trump.
“I think that the most important thing in any democracy is a free press, and a free press should criticize politicians when they need to be criticized,” Daly said. “They should point out where wrongdoing is done, and when they achieve greatly, as this small newspaper has done, winning the most prestigious prize in journalism, I think it would be fitting and appropriate that their own state senate would acknowledge them.
“But in light of the fact that they have not done so, I think it would be appropriate that the land of the ancestors of the Cullen family would acknowledge their great achievement in relation to winning the Pulitzer Prize, and I would ask the leader to support that motion,” Daly added.
Cullen said the Irish honor would be ‘about as good as a Pulitzer’
Art Cullen, who describes himself as 100 percent Irish, said in an email that he considers being honored by the Irish Senate “about as good as Pulitzer!”
Cullen was joined as a Pulitzer Prize winner on Monday by Andie Dominick, a Des Moines Register editorial writer, who was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Her honor came for a series of Iowa-focused editorials criticizing policies that restrict access to health care.
Sen. Johnson, in remarks on the Iowa Senate floor Monday, suggested the Iowa Senate should now approve resolutions to honor and congratulate both Cullen and Dominick.
“What an honor that recognized the largest circulation newspaper of the state and one of the smallest, in the Storm Lake Times,” Johnson said.