HIGH numbers of young people out of work could help fringe candidates win one-quarter of the seats in the forthcoming European Parliament elections, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said.
The Finance Minister said many people believed mainstream party policies were not addressing problems like youth unemployment and may turn to independents and smaller parties as a result.
He said the youth unemployment problem must be urgently addressed in Ireland and across the European Union.
Mr Noonan's comments come after the first opinion poll of 2014, published on Thursday, showed that Independent candidates' support was holding up well at 22pc -- close to Mr Noonan's EU-wide estimate.
"Many people in Europe don't see Europe as part of the solution to the problems in their lives and they actually don't believe in the economic model anymore and I think that is going to become a main issue across Europe," Mr Noonan said.
"There is a market in Ireland for people who are opposed to that European economic policy and the general trend in Europe is that that will be manifested in the polls as well," he added.
Mr Noonan described figures of youth unemployment in Europe as unsustainable and revealed the current unemployment figure in Italy was 41pc, with over one-third of young people in Spain out of work.
The figure in Ireland is just over 20pc and Mr Noonan described youth unemployment in Europe as a major issue that had to be addressed.
"It's not possible to sustain democratic systems over the medium term if all your young people or half or a third of your young people have no hope of getting a job," he said.
Mr Noonan (pictured) made his comments during his key note address at a business breakfast in The Stand Hotel in Limerick.
The event was hosted by Fine Gael MEP Mr Kelly as part of his European re-election bid.