Happy St Patrick's Day. Raise a glass to the relaxed and inclusive atmosphere that settles ever more securely around the holiday in Belfast and beyond with each passing year.
Raise a glass too to the men of the Royal Irish Regiment, whose holiday was brought forward because today they have much more sobering engagement: they are leaving England for Helmand Province and the front line of the war in Afghanistan. Some of our readers may not be inclined to toast the departing soldiers, either because they are a regiment of the British Army or there is a sense that Afghanistan is a faraway place in which we should not interfere. Both sentiments are misplaced.
First of all, their mission in Afghanistan is something beyond nationalism and unionism. It is not about extending or diminishing the borders of the UK. These are Irishmen from the North and South - and Englishmen, Fijians, South Africans and other nationalities - stepping forward to fight a costly, difficult, and worthy fight.
This is not jingoism speaking. Discussions of war cannot be entered into lightly. We all know the cost of violence in Northern Ireland and the young men flying off today will almost inevitably suffer casualties. Rather, the worthiness of their task is a serious reflection of how important the battle for Afghanistan has become.
Here is a country that has not been rid of its snakes. Even with deference to multicultural sensitivities and respect for other traditions, we have no difficulty concluding that the Taliban are vile. They are not some romantic anti-imperialist movement. The Taliban's extreme, violent oppression of women - banned from education, adequate medical care or even turning their face to the sun - should be proof enough of that.
But consider as well their death sentences for homosexuals and adulterers, the massacres carried out when they came to power, even their puritanical suppression of many of life's small joys: music or applause at sporting events. They are enemies of liberalism and liberty.
Consider too their links to al Qaida, because increasing stability in Iraq is turning Afghanistan once again into a refuge and battleground for the jihadis of Islamic terrorism.
And as remote as the battlefields of Afghanistan may seem, that makes what happens there directly relevant to us. The country has been the training ground for people who would attack us because we lead liberal lives.
The Royal Irish are there to mentor and train the Afghan Army, which will hopefully instil some stability that will benefit the whole world.
Faugh a ballagh. The Irish are coming. May they return to us whole.