Between 250 and 300 Labour Party members attended the first hustings in the party’s leadership contests in Dublin this evening.

Joan Burton, one of two candidates for the overall leadership of the party, has said that she wants to phase out any remaining tax shelters that favour the wealthy.

Ms Burton also said she wanted to concentrate tax relief on low and middle income families.

Alex White, Ms Burton's rival in the race for the party leadership, told party members that there can be no question of an adjustment of the order of €2bn next year.

Mr White also said, "we have a target of reducing the deficit below 3% in 2015 but if we were to miss that deadline marginally, or by a few months, so be it."

Mr White said he will make a recommendation to the party in relation to Labours coalition strategy and said he will not lead the party into the next election as an appendix of Fine Gael.

Mr White added that he does not see the question of a coalition with Sinn Féin, saying the he abhorred their policies.

However, he said that he would not put Sinn Féin a corner and treat them as untouchable forever.

On the subject of Sinn Féin Ms Burton said she still believes there is a Sinn Féin - IRA nexus.

Mr White also spoke in favour of the introduction of a wealth tax by the party.

When asked if he would appoint Ms Burton to Cabinet if elected leader Mr White said he would.

Ms Burton refused to be drawn on whether she would appoint Mr White.

The four candidates for the party's deputy leadership also all addressed the hustings.

Ciara Conway, said that she would not accept ministerial office because the party needs an independent voice as deputy leader.

Ms Conway said, "we know that official policy even today can result in heartless and inhumane outcomes and if we have learned nothing from the medical card fiasco, we have learnt that."

Alan Kelly talked of mistakes - the timing of the water metering, the scandalous way in which medical card review was handled and the management of Fine Gael ministerial controversies.

Mr Kelly said every major decision has to be 'Labour-proofed' or it won't happen and he said the party has to fight Sinn Féin in the streets, in the housing estates and on the airwaves.

He also said we know Sinn Féin are telling lies.

Michael McCarthy said we must ensure that we do not hand society back to the same vested interests who created the crisis.

He said the party has to correct the perception that Labour is in government to make up the numbers, adding that Labour members are not quitters.

Sean Sherlock, the final candidate for deputy leadership, said that decisions have to be ‘Labour-proofed’.

Mr Sherlock said there has to be a social floor through which no one can fall, as he said President Higgins would have said.

He also said he was in favour of meeting the 3% deficit target or else previous sacrifices would have been for nothing.