The Den (Ireland)

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The Den
The Den 2005 logo.png
Launched September 1986
Closed 17 August 2010
Network RTÉ One (1986–88)
RTÉ Two (1988–2010)
Owned by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ)
Picture format PAL I standard
Audience share 8.5% (October 2009, AGB Nielsen)
Country Ireland
Language English
Broadcast area Ireland
Northern Ireland
Worldwide online
Headquarters Montrose, Donnybrook, Dublin 4
Formerly called Dempsey's Den (1986–90)
Den TV (occasionally between 1990 and 1997)
Den2 (1998–2002)
The Den (2002–2010)
Sister channel(s) RTÉ One, RTÉ Two
The Den
Dempsey's Den 1989 logo.png
Dempsey's Den logo used in 1989
Also known as Dempsey's Den (1986–90)
Den TV (occasionally between 1990 and 1997)
Den2 (1998–2002)
The Den (2002–2010)
Presented by Ian Dempsey (1986–90)
Ray D'Arcy (1990–98)[1]
Damien McCaul (1998–2003)
Francis Boylan, Jnr (2003–05)
Starring Aunt Monica, Dustin the Turkey, Snotser, Soky, Zig and Zag, Zuppy
Country of origin Ireland
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes Over 5,000
Production company(s) Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ)
Original network RTÉ One (1986–88)
RTÉ Two (1988-2010)
First shown in 29 September 1986
Original release 30 September 1986 – 19 September 2010
Related shows 2Phat, A Scare at Bedtime, Dustin's Daily News, Echo Island, Jo Maxi, The Podge and Rodge Show

The Den was, for decades, the main children's television strand on Ireland's public broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann. First broadcast on 29 September 1986 on RTÉ1, it moved to Network 2 in September 1988. The strand began to spread throughout the late 1990s and the 2000s until The Den became synonymous with RTÉ Young People's Programming. At various times during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, it was known as Dempsey's Den, Den TV and Den2.

In mid-2010, RTÉ Television announced an overhaul of all young people's programming, especially as Ireland advanced towards digital terrestrial television.[2] This overhaul took place on 20 September 2010, effectively ending The Den.[3]


Presented in its early years by Ian Dempsey, and then by Ray D'Arcy, The Den pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable viewing for young people of its time. It was responsible for introducing a number of anthropomorphic characters to Irish culture; these included Zig and Zag, Podge and Rodge and Dustin the Turkey. Zig and Zag later transferred to Channel 4, Podge and Rodge took over late-night programming on RTÉ (at one point even presenting their own talk show), while Dustin ran for President and achieved global acclaim by representing Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.

With a string of other names in its time (including Dempsey's Den, Den TV and Den2), the strand eventually came to air from 06:00 to 17:30 each weekday, with the title also coming to be used for the broadcast of weekend morning cartoons. As well as airing on RTÉ Two, The Den has its own electronic programme guide placement on UPC Ireland, channel 601. The Den acquired a reputation for airing new episodes of many shows before other networks in Europe.

Broadcast history[edit]

Beginning as Dempsey's Den in 1986, it was fronted by Ian Dempsey and ran from 16:00 to 18:00 each weekday afternoon, originally showing on RTÉ 1 (after Live at 3) before switching to Network 2 (with an additional hour) following its revamp in 1987. It contained almost all of RTÉ's children's programming output for many years, with the exception of Bosco (shown immediately before The Den) and a half-hour of teenage oriented programming (Jo Maxi) shown immediately after The Den.

In 1990, Ian Dempsey was replaced by Ray D'Arcy, although he remained for a number of years afterwards in the regular pop music section of the show, "Pop Goes The Den". D'Arcy presented the show until 1998.[1] D'Arcy replaced by Damien McCaul. Francis Boylan, Jr. took over the reins in 2003. Over time, the programme dropped the leading "Dempsey's", and alternated between the names The Den and Den TV. Following the re-brand of Network 2 to N2 in 1997, Den TV became Den2, but this reverted to The Den in 2002.

When Zig, Ray and Zag were joined by President of Ireland Mary Robinson, Dustin the Turkey (seen here in an early appearance) shocked the nation by suggesting the President had smelly feet.

Classic format: 1986 - 1998[edit]

The format changed little during the Dempsey and D'Arcy years; it would start at 15:00 after Bosco had completed transmission, show a "kiddie" cartoon, and then do the "Birthday Slot". Photographs of children would roll along the screen, after which a music video would be shown. There would then be another cartoon or two, an original RTÉ programme, followed by another cartoon and a music video, after which The Den concluded its day's transmission. On certain days of the week, a quiz would be inserted in place of one of the cartoons.

Presented at various times from within a treehouse (1995), a chip-van, a hair salon called "On The Noggin" (1999), No. 10 Celebrity Square, a UFO and a newsroom among other places, the presenter tended to be sat behind a desk (or counter in the chip-van), with Zag, Dustin, Zig, Soky, Zuppy, or whoever was current, perched between desk and camera.[1][4][5] The format would be changed only four times per year during the D'Arcy and Dempsey years, though it might have been altered slightly (moved to RTÉ 1 and shortened a tad) during major sporting events.

Upon D'Arcy's departure, the format significantly altered. The Christmas show was dropped (though the old specials were occasionally repeated) and an hour of programming appeared before school-time in mornings, this presented by Geri Maye (with Soky).

Damien McCaul and Dustin the Turkey on Den2 after the 1998 relaunch

Re-launch: 1998 - 2005[edit]

The 1998 re-launch saw The Den, renamed Den2 at this point, become much more like a TV station of its own, with its own trailers and presentation. It aired between 06:00 and 17:00 and, from 2003, was followed by a separate strand called iD, which ran between 17:00 and 19:00.

For much of the time during the day, there were no continuity links; however, two sections of The Den had presentation. Until early 2005, the morning section, referred to as Den AM or Socky's Big Little Morning Show, was presented by Geri Maye (who was once engaged to Ray D'Arcy).[6] The traditional afternoon slot was presented by Damien McCaul from 1998 until 2003,[7] with Francis Boylan, Jnr replacing him in September 2003 until June 2005). The strand re-adopted The Den name in 2002 before McCaul's departure.[citation needed] While The Den had irreparably altered, much of its original spirit remained intact: there were still quizzes, birthdays were still commemorated, and Dustin, Soky, Zuppy and Snotzer remained intact.

As Den2, it launched a website in October 1999.[8] In 2003, after resuming The Den title, it introduced a daily news programme for children called news2day, somewhat similar in format to the BBC's Newsround.

Re-launch: 2005 - 2010[edit]

RTÉ completely re-launched The Den on 17 September 2005 (although as this was a Saturday, the new weekday formats proper began airing on 19 September), with new look graphics designed by Dunning Elley Joans (now Dunning Penny Joans). Between 2005 and 2008, RTÉ's programming for young people comprised the following:

  • Airing from 07:15 - 09:00 was something called Wakey Wakey
  • Den Tots (aimed at children of a preschool age), airing from 09:00 - 14:35 and presented by Dustin the Turkey, Charly and Socky
  • Airing from 14:35 - 17:00 was something called The Club
  • news2day, RTÉ's news bulletin targeting children, then aired at 17:00
  • Saturdays and Sunday mornings no longer used The Den title

This final re-launch removed much of the cast (bar Dustin, Socky, Charly and Zuppy), with the launch of their own programme (DDN). It also re-focused the breakfast slot away from children of a preschool age and towards older children, hence the use of the same presenter for morning and afternoon. From September 2008, the titles Wakey Wakey and The Club disappeared; with them went McKiernan (who never actually presented under the title The Den) to present something called Kazoo, leaving no visible presenter by 2008 (though a voice would announce what was being shown next during new "Now Next Later" graphics which were given a new look in 2009). DDN was axed, replaced with something called ICE which was presented by Sinead Kennedy, Brian Ormond and Rob Ross. Dustin the Turkey moved then to present The Once a Week Show (Sinéad Ní Churnain assisted him).

Finally, The Den was effectively ended by RTÉ's seasonal changes for 2010-11 when The Den and Den Tots were replaced by two "age-specific brands".[2][3]


Further information: List of The Den cast members
Presenter[9] Term of office
Ian Dempsey 1986–1990
Ray D'Arcy 1990–1998[1]
Damien McCaul 1998–2003[7]
Francis Boylan, Jnr 2003–2005


Ciara Carroll served as The Den assistant during D'Arcy's time as presenter.[1] She would arrive at the studio to announce new competitions in which viewers could participate, would provide observations from behind the camera and her laughter could often be heard in the background as Zig and Zag accused her of being responsible for farts. She would also include herself during many other features throughout the day. During the Dempsey years The Den assistant was Celine; she would later present Jo Maxi when D'Arcy departed that programme to succeed Ian Dempsey.

In its latter years, The Den remained on air during the summer. However, there were often either replacement presenters (Aidan Power, Aoileann Garavaglia, etc.) and/or weeks when there was no live presentation.

Home-produced programming[edit]

Echo Island[edit]

Main article: Echo Island

Echo Island —a "children's magazine" show along the lines of Blue Peter—first aired in 1994. The time of transmission was between 17:00 and 17:30.[10] It ran three days a week for the first season, adding an extra programme at the start of the second season in September 1995, with two in English and the other two as Gaeilge. It was renamed Echo in 1999 (for its final season). Original hosts were Derek Mooney and Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh. Comedian Dara Ó Briain, who has since become recognisable abroad, spent most of his RTÉ career on Echo Island from 1995 onwards. Carrie Crowley joined the show in 1996, later achieving global recognition by presenting Eurovision Song Contest 1997.


FISH, seen here in 1999. The Den2 DOG tag can also be seen.

An acronym for Friday It Starts Here, this was a weekly show presented by Danann Breathnach and Louise Loughman during the Den2 era.

The Grip[edit]

Ryle Nugent presented this sports programme from 1994 until 1998.[11]


Main article: Jo Maxi

"JMTV" or "Jo Maxi" was a mainly music-based show aimed at adolescents, shown in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was shown directly after The Den had ended, but was integrated into the show by the delayed displaying of The Den's copyright notice until after it had ended.

The Works[edit]

Mary Kingston presented The Works on Wednesdays between 17:00 and 17:30 (just before Spider-Man).[12]


In addition, several short programmes aired during the Den2 era. These included: Creature Feature (presented by Éanna ni Lamhna with a nature theme),[13][14][15] Digby Chix (presented by Peter Vamos with a science theme),[13][16] Sticky (presented by Danann Breathnach with a make-and-do theme),[13] and YUMee (presented by Aoileann Garavaglia with a cookery theme).[13] There was also Stream. Five of these aired, each on a different day of the week.[13]

  • Quiz Stream (Mondays?)
  • Star Stream (Tuesdays?)
  • Cyber Stream (Wednesdays?)
  • Pet Stream (Thursdays?)
  • Sport Stream (Fridays?)


On 14 November 2008, an edition of The Ray D'Arcy Show (then of Today FM) aired live from Vicar Street in Dublin, reflecting on the formative years of The Den from 1986 - 1994.[17]

The television special and DVD Best Bitz From Back Den returned to Zig and Zag's origins on The Den. Broadcast on RTÉ One on 27 October 2008 at 18:30, it was compiled to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the birth of Zig and Zag and later released as a DVD in November 2008. Presenters D'Arcy and Dempsey featured heavily in the special; other highlights included assaults perpetrated by Ted—a malicious panda—on the presenters, Christmas specials of The Den, footage of characters like Captain Joke, Captain Pillowcase and Cousin Nigel and Ireland's 1989 Irish Film and Television awards at which Zig and Zag "accidentally" mistook then taoiseach Albert Reynolds as actor Burt Reynolds and addressed him as "your majesty".[18][19]

A television special and DVD Dustin: 20 Years a Pluckin' was released in November 2009. Broadcast on RTÉ One on 8 November 2009 at 18:30, it was compiled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dustin's birth.[20]

See also[edit]

  • Cúla 4 - Irish-language children's channel


  1. ^ a b c d e "From left to right; Don Conroy, Soky, programme presenter Ray D'Arcy, Zuppy, Ciara Carroll and Dustin". Archived from the original on 11 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "The New Season on RTÉ Television". RTÉ Press Office. 5 August 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2010. [...] RTÉ Television will soon be announcing [...] the launch of two completely new schedules of Young People's programmes in September. This [...] will be broadcast in two brand new channel blocks, commissioned to cater specifically for [...] the nation's younger viewers as they develop from pre-school through to teens. 
  3. ^ a b McGreevy, Ronan (13 September 2010). "RTÉ overhauls children's TV schedule". The Irish Times. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  4. ^ "The presenting team that worked on RTÉ Television's young people's programme 'Den TV' in studio in November 1994". Archived from the original on 11 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "The presenting team that worked on RTÉ Television's young people's programme 'Den TV' in studio on 18 September 1996". Archived from the original on 11 April 2015. 
  6. ^ Nolan, Larissa (30 July 2006). "Pregnancy finally fixes the big Ray and Jenny question". Irish Independent. Retrieved 30 July 2006. 
  7. ^ a b "Talent search for new Den presenter". RTÉ. 26 May 2003. Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2003. Damien McCaul has spent five years in the Den chair, helped along by Dustin and Soky and is due to step down at the end of May. 
  8. ^ "RTÉ broadcaster Liz Bonnin posing with Dustin the puppet turkey and a computer monitor in a publicity shot to launch the 'Den 2' website in October 1999". Archived from the original on 11 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "From left to right are; Ian Dempsey, Ray D'Arcy, Damien McCaul and Francis Boylan - all four were former presenters of RTÉ Television's 'The Den'". Archived from the original on 11 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "RTÉ Network 2". 13 February 1996. Archived from the original on 10 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "The Grip". Archived from the original on 10 April 2015. 
  12. ^ "The Works". Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "RTE's Autumn TV Schedule Announced". Irish Film and Television Network. 6 August 2002. Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2002. 
  14. ^ "Eanna Ni Lamhna". Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. 
  15. ^ "Creature Feature". Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. 
  16. ^ "Digby Chix". Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Ray Re-unites with Zig and Zag!". Today FM. Retrieved 15 November 2008. 
  18. ^ Whitington, Paul (25 October 2008). "The Bourne Supremacy". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 October 2008. 
  19. ^ Neville, Sarah (21 October 2008). "Zig and Zag return to TV for 21st anniversary". Evening Herald. Retrieved 21 October 2008. 
  20. ^ Stacey, Pat (9 November 2009). "Dustin's endurance prove he's no turkey". Evening Herald. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 

External links[edit]