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A late night news bulletin, Network News, was followed by the controversial but highly successful chat show / soap opera Nighthawks presented by Shay Healy, and produced by David Blake-Knox.

RTÉ2 broadcasts in both standard definition and high-definition.

In the 1970s the Irish government considered three options for the introduction of a second television service: the re-transmission of BBC1 Northern Ireland; authorisation of an independent commercial service; or charging RTÉ with the establishment of a second national channel. The channel, the Republic's second, began transmissions on 2 November 1978 with an opening broadcast of a gala ceremony from Cork Opera House.

Monday nights became comedy nights, with the launch of home-produced comedy such as Don't Feed The Gondolas.

Elsewhere theme nights became a regular fixture, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays.

In 1988 the majority of sporting and children's programming was moved to Network 2, the new name for RTÉ 2.

In September 1988, RTÉ 2 was given a major revamp and became Network Two.

The Den was now broadcast all day until and was renamed Den 2.

Not all the changes were universally welcomed, with the "N2" era, RTÉ cancelled its long running Saturday sports programme, Sports Stadium in 1997.

Hence RTÉ 2 was aimed at those that did not have the UK channels.

To this end one of their main remits was the re-broadcasting of UK programming to Irish audiences, that would not otherwise be seen on RTÉ 1.

A new logo—referring to the channel as RTÉ Network 2 (though the "RTÉ" part was not referred to by announcers)—was launched with the new RTÉ logo in 1995.