Opinion polls point to the likelihood that the Lisbon treaty will be passed on 2 October, but with trust in government, the taoiseach and the political system in general at an historic low, it will take a massive effort to ensure defeat is not snatched from the jaws of victory again.

The mood of the country has certainly shifted towards a more positive attitude to Lisbon. A year of reading about ourselves in the international press under headlines such as 'Erin go Broke', 'Ireland: The End of the Road?' and last week's Financial Times offering 'Direland' has tended to soften our cough as self-styled courageous flag-bearers of the rights of the "ordinary citizens" of Europe.

The past year has been suitably humbling, not because we will never vote no on a point of "principle" again, but because we will never again vote no because we don't know what we're voting about. Part of the 'End of the Celtic Tiger' lesson has been that we all read and understand the small print before signing (or not) on the dotted line.

The polls are certainly more positive than at this stage last time. The Yes vote has fallen by eight per cent since May, according to the Irish Times/tns mrbi poll, but it is still 46%. Most of the slippage has fallen into the undecided camp, which makes up 25% of voters, while the No vote is up one percentage point to 29%.

Compared with the poll just before referendum day in June 2008 (Yes 35%, No 18%, Don't Know 47%) more people seem to have made up their minds. But as the director of Fianna Fáil's Yes campaign, Micheál Martin, acknowledges, securing victory remains a significant challenge.

Last time round, most undecideds voted no because they did not understand the consequences of the treaty and because they wanted to wipe the government's eye. This time, as it becomes clearer to all but the most ideologically opposed to European integration that our economic recovery is totally dependent on forging closer economic, social and cultural links with Europe, the drift from Don't Know to No is unlikely to be as marked. But public anger is now so great that social trust, not just in the government but in politicians generally, has all but broken down.

The government has learned the lessons of its failure to persuade the public of Lisbon 1. Political leaders of all parties have been campaigning hard, hitting the airwaves, doing interviews, walking the streets and addressing meetings with a gusto that compares well with the self-regarding detachment that people resented so much last time round.

Our bewildered European partners also deserve credit for the patience and calm (with the exception of a Sarkozy hiccup and an outspoken German MEP) they showed in the negotiations for a permanent commissioner for all members and in agreeing protocols on neutrality, abortion and taxation. These belt-and-braces guarantees must be persuasive to many doubters, despite the derision of the No campaigners.

The No campaign can sound convincing to some in talking about EU bureaucracy, the undemocratic nature of the European Commission, expenses scandals, some of the barmier rules and regulations that define the quality of vegetables, and the generalised "threat to our sovereignty" that they perceive to come from Europe.

Yet, for all its imperfections, the Lisbon treaty is an attempt to lift the EU out of the bureaucratic gloop it is currently stuck in. It is about more democracy, not less. It is about guaranteeing a commissioner for every member state. It is about giving MEPs more powers to scrutinise laws, not bypassing them.

The new voting procedures will make it simpler to react with speed and co-ordination to the great issues of our age – not just a strategy for economic stability and banking and financial regulation, but also climate change and energy security.

If the speed of the financial downturn taught us anything, it was that close co-operation between nations is vital. The importance of China as a world economic force, and its ability as a single behemoth to take strategic decisions at a stroke, make it all the more advantageous to Europeans to work together.

Our own catastrophic financial situation over the past 18 months was a sharp lesson in the need to shelter within the European tent. The treaty enshrines the concept of solidarity among members, with the union acting together to protect individual members that may be in trouble, whether it's due to terrorist attack, some form of disaster or, as in our case, financial chaos.

This country has benefited by the billion from Europe in roads, railways and broadband (not to mention ECB funding for cleaning out toxic loans). But the benefits go farther than that. European legislation has forced this country, often kicking and screaming, to face up to sexual and racial equality. It has empowered the consumer, promoted competition and regulated monopolies. It has even had the guts to slap pro-treaty Michael O'Leary's wrist from time to time.

As we strive to build a knowledge economy, we need closer links between European universities so students can build contacts, friendships and a deep-rooted understanding of mainland European business, culture and history to strengthen the ties that bind us.

Common understanding among Europeans does not dilute our own national identity. It strengthens it. Opening ourselves up makes us more interested in learning from others – and more interesting to them .

There is no doubt that, as we build again, as we certainly will, on the strength of our younger generation who, despite what cynics say, are well-educated, open-minded and hard-working, we will forge more meaningful connections on more solid ground. (And yes, if we believe in the values enshrined in the Lisbon treaty, then a modern European language must be taught from the age of four.)

This really is a watershed for us. We are a very angry nation, but when it comes to Lisbon, revenge is a dish best served cold. The abiding image after the loss of Lisbon 1 was of Avril Doyle, then an MEP, standing up for the integrity of this country in the face of whooping UKIP parliamentary members, one wearing a leprechaun hat. These are the people now leafleting every household asking you to vote no.

When we see friends in enemies like that, for all our anger, we should think very carefully before pushing the self-destruct button.