Nursing leaders have described the attempt by the Health Service Executive to recruit 1,000 nurses at 80% of current pay rates as a complete failure.

Today was the official deadline for applications to be received, which had already been extended from the original closing date.

The HSE said it has now extended the deadline on a rolling basis "as the number of applications received has been low".

The scheme is now open to graduates from 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Over 100 nursing graduates held a demonstration and handed in a letter of protest at the HSE's headquarters in Dublin earlier.

They warned that if an attempt was made to continue the recruitment drive based on these terms they would continue their boycott.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, along with the Psychiatric Nurses Association, claim under 100 applications were received by the HSE for the posts.

However, they stress they are not in receipt of official figures from the HSE.