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Gaelic ambassador named as Royal National Mod gets under way

The celebration of Gaelic culture has returned to the Western Isles after a five-year absence.

Scottish celebration: Royal National Mod gets under way.
Scottish celebration: Royal National Mod gets under way. PA

Sports broadcaster Alex O'Henley has been named Gaelic ambassador of the year as the Royal National Mod gets under way in the Western Isles.

The eight-day celebration of Gaelic language, music and culture has returned to the islands for the first time since 2011 and involves more than 200 competitions in Highland dancing, sport, literature, drama, Gaelic music and song.

There are also arts and sports events including shinty, football and a piping ceilidh, and talks including the deputy first minister John Swinney on The Place of Gaelic in a Modern Scotland.

The Mod opened on Friday night with the presentation of the Scottish Government's Gaelic ambassador of the year award to Alex O'Henley at a ceremony at Lewis Sports Centre in Stornoway, followed by a torchlight procession through the town.

A South Uist native, he was the first Gaelic officer employed by the new Scottish Parliament between 2000 and 2002 and has been Uefa's Scottish football correspondent since 2004.

O'Henley also regularly contributes to the BBC's Gaelic radio service on Scottish and European Football and commentates on BBC Alba's coverage of Scottish football.

John Morrison, chief executive of Mod organisers An Comunn Gaidhealach, praised the broadcaster and used his opening address to call for the Western Isles to be Isles to be recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

He said: "We're delighted that Alex O'Henley has been awarded the prestigious Gaelic Ambassador of the year by the Scottish Government.

"His contribution to the Gaelic language through his work with the Scottish Parliament, Uefa and the BBC for so many years has made him a true role model and influence to Scottish Gaels of all ages.

"His continuing work in football ensures that thousands of people every week hear Gaelic, and shows Alex's passion for maintaining the language in Scotland.

"It's been a fantastic first day and we look forward to the rest of the 2016 Royal National Mod in the Western Isles."

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