Voters may not trust the political establishment but they do pay attention when someone like Michael O'Leary says voting No would hinder foreign investment

IT'S the economy stupid. Five days to go to polling and the Yes side looks to be inexorably heading towards victory. The No side has made up some ground in recent weeks and it may not turn out to be quite the 60-40 margin in favour of Lisbon suggested in the Irish Times poll on Friday. Yes campaigners are privately suggesting that it could be closer to 55-45. But it's hard to see any other outcome than Yes once the votes are counted next Saturday.

There are differences between the campaign now and last year. The Yes side is much more focused and organised. The No side looks disjointed and – Cóir aside – lacking in resources.

Two of the main anti-Lisbon forces last time around, Mary Lou McDonald and Declan Ganley, haven't had anything like the same impact in this campaign.

Sinn Féin's campaign has been listless, suggesting there is truth to reports of serious divisions within the party's ranks over the decision to back a No vote.

Many elements of the party, particularly outside Dublin and in the North, were arguing that the party should take credit for the guarantees obtained after the defeat of Lisbon I and push for a Yes vote, not least because that is the way the political wind is blowing.

A lack of resources hasn't helped, but the overall impression is of a party simply going through the motions.

One fight too many for Ganley

Ganley's re-entry into the Lisbon fray has failed to ignite the No side. Anti-Lisbon campaigners on the left don't like to admit it but the Galway businessman was a key factor in their victory in the first referendum. He brought a mainstream respectability and credibility that campaigns against EU referendums haven't had.

But Libertas hasn't had anything like the resources it had 15 months ago and Ganley's credibility has been undermined by Libertas' failure to get more than one MEP elected – out of hundreds of candidates – across Europe.

He's still a fine debater but, like a prize fighter who has come out of retirement for another shot at the title, this looks like one fight too many for Ganley.

The value of the guarantees secured by the government on the EU Commissioner, abortion, taxation, workers' rights and neutrality have been disputed by the No side, but they have helped to dilute their importance as issues in this campaign.

But ultimately the main difference – and the central reason why there will be a Yes vote on Friday – is the economic meltdown. The views of many voters are succinctly summed up by the musician who told the London Times: "The country's bankrupt – we'd be mad to vote no".

The No side hasn't been able to reassure voters that there would be no negative fall-out to another rejection of the Lisbon treaty.

Voters may not trust the political establishment but they do sit up and take notice when the likes of Michael O'Leary, the IDA and the chief executives of various multinationals say voting No would be detrimental to foreign investment here.

Last year the Yes side didn't seem to have any answer to arguments put forward by businessmen such as Ganley and Ulick McEvaddy. This time the opposite has been the case.

There is little doubt the Cóir posters falsely claiming that the national minimum wage could be cut to €1.84 if the Lisbon treaty were ratified did have an impact, especially among younger voters, but Yes campaigners say the intervention of the Labour Party and the trade unions in response has helped to change attitudes.

Not that the main political parties are counting their chickens about the referendum outcome.

"It's not over the line by a long shot. It's not a flood. There is no room for complacency," one government minister said this weekend.

Younger voters become Eurosceptics

But the reports coming back from TDs is that the main cities and the middle classes are strongly Yes. The No strongholds of last year – rural areas and working-class estates – this time seem to be much closer to 50-50.

Privately, Yes campaigners are starting to talk about how a big Yes vote would send out a powerful signal to the rest of Europe and would be a major boost for Ireland's reputation within Europe.

"The higher the vote the louder the statement we make that we are a progressive, dynamic, outward-looking country," said one senior figure in the pro-Lisbon campaign.

That may be wishful thinking. Whatever the outcome of Friday's referendum, it's clear that, far from being outward-looking, growing numbers of the Irish population are becoming Eurosceptics, particularly younger voters.

If these were normal economic times, it would be difficult to be optimistic about the Yes campaign's chances. However, these are far from normal times. The Yes side will prevail next weekend because of that. But in the longer term, it might only be a blip in the shift of the balance of power to the 'No to Europe' side.