Nurses and midwives have taken part in a demonstration in Dublin, in protest at the Health Service Executive’s proposed new graduate nursing programme.

The HSE says the programme will provide 1,000 additional positions for graduate nurses and midwives.

However, the nursing unions say the scheme will displace 1,000 agency or temporary staff and fill their posts with graduates being paid 80% of the agreed scale.

They have called for a boycott of the scheme, which they say is an attempt to introduce low cost labour and will force many graduates to emigrate.

Many of those attending the rally say that the proposed scheme has left them feeling demoralised.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association organised today's joint rally.

They say that next week they will begin contacting TDs calling on them to support their campaign for equal pay for new recruits.

The new recruits will not be an additional resource, but will replace agency staff and are intended to reduce the dependence on overtime.

They will receive a starting salary of €22,000 compared to around €26,400 for graduates hired up to now.

The HSE said it is disappointed with the unions' response and that it will shortly begin advertising the new graduate positions.