The last of four hustings events to help members of Fine Gael to decide their next leader took place in Cork this evening.

More than 1,000 people turned out to watch Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney battle it out at the event.

The candidates debated a wide range of issues from Brexit to young people and the future of Fine Gael. 

And during lively exchanges to conclude the debate, the candidates traded jibes over who would be better placed to lead the party as Taoiseach.

Voting for the new party leader will get under way tomorrow with the result set to be announced next Friday.

Giving the opening address, Simon Coveney said both candidates offer a very different path for the party to take.

He said there were two questions he wanted to ask: "Who is best qualified for the job, and what kind of Ireland do we want to create."

He said he wanted to create a fairer, stronger society.

He asked if candidates during last year's election heard people saying to them on the doorsteps "let’s keep the recovery going, or where they saying just show us a bit of compassion?"

"Transfers were nowhere to be seen - because people associated us with building an economy rather than building society.

"We need to be a party that is about building a stronger, fairer society," he said.

"When FG was at its most powerful was back in the 1980s when Garret Fitzgerald was actually changing a society as well as building an economy," he added.

"I believe Leo has the capacity to lead this party, but the core question for you is, where does Fine Gael go from here?"

"I believe that both candidates offer a very different road in this regard," he said.

Mr Varadkar said one of his core values was compassion, and he said he could not agree with what Mr Coveney was trying to say about him.

He said he had increased allowances for carers, lone parents, one-parent families and the unemployed.

"There are enough people who want to misrepresent our party as being uncaring, without us saying these things about each other," he said.

"In my view it's divisive, it's dishonest and it's not a good way to seek a mandate," he added.

Asked who from the Opposition they would like to appoint to Cabinet, Mr Coveney said it would be Eamon Ryan as minister for climate change.

Mr Varadkar said he was concerned that Mr Coveney has mentioned Mr Ryan during three out of four hustings events.

He said he has concerns about some of the Green red line issues such as the impact their policy on live animal exports would have on agriculture.

To jeers from Coveney supporters, Mr Varadkar said he would not answer the question himself, because an endorsement from him could damage that person's career.

Answering a question on what more could be done to integrate new communities in Ireland, Mr Varadkar spoke of his own background.

"My mum is from Waterford and my Dad is from India, that's where I get the year round tan and the funny surname."

He said he was an example to young people from different backgrounds that anyone can aspire to become the leader of the country.

Mr Varadkar also dismissed suggestions that Fine Gael was an elitist party.

"We're not elitist. Living standards have been battered by the recession. If we're improving people's lives it's hard to accuse us of being elitist," he said.

Mr Coveney said Fine Gael was a broad family. To jeers from the floor he said it was a party which could have open debate where talented people challenge each other, "and sometimes not so talented people are there too" he said.

"There's got to be room for everybody," he said.

Both candidates said they would not appoint a Brexit minister.

"If we had a Brexit minister, they wouldn't be able to attend meeting where decisions are made," said Mr Varadkar.

Candidates trade jibes during lively exchanges

During lively exchanges to conclude the debate, the candidates traded jibes.

Mr Varadkar said there was an attempt being made to create an ideological debate, which he said does not exist.

"Simon and I have been in the same party for 20 years, and been in the same Government for six years and I don't remember in all that time us having a big clash in ideologies," he said.

He added: "The difference is I'm putting forward a programme of substance ... not something broader which would cover up the fact that I'm not willing to make choices or decisions."

Mr Coveney responded by saying: "What Leo is doing is committing to spend money that we don't have yet. Not difficult to win votes on the back of that."

To which Mr Varadkar replied: "So the grand vision for Ireland isn't going to cost any money?"

Mr Coveney responded saying: "The difference between the approach I have and Leo, is that I want to plan first, and then fund the pieces, instead Leo couldn't wait for that, because there was an election under way and he wanted to commit to projects all over the country."

Earlier today, former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes stated his preference for Mr Coveney as the next leader of the party.

He said that Mr Varadkar has run a very clever campaign, compared to Mr Coveney.

But Mr Dukes said that he believes Mr Coveney to be the candidate of greater substance, and with the best experience, particularly at European level to lead the party.