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Eyewitness in Manchester masthead
Issue number 3 Saturday the 1st of February 1997

Cross St under repair
Friday afternoon shoppers pass the Royal Exchange and Arndale Centre, undergoing major
reconstruction as part of the new development plan for the city centre

"Taking drugs is as normal as having a cup of tea" said millionaire songwriter and Oasis member Noel Gallagher this week, adding more fuel to the controversy started by E17 star Brian Harvey's recent drug-condoning remarks.

Gallagher's statement was not intended to express approval of drug-taking, but to point out the hypocrisy of many MP's who, he alleges, take drugs regularly, whilst at the same time condemning the practice as criminal. After predictable cries of outrage, he defiantly said he was glad if the remarks provoked an honest debate on the subject.

Whether the 10 year old pupil caught at a local school in possession of cannabis regards drug-taking as normal is another matter. The boy only had a tiny amount on him, but many people will be asking themselves just what's happening to young people today.

Perhaps the reporting of crimes such as these projects a distorted picture of our city. People working, travelling, and generally going about their daily lives, as they do every day here, just isn't newsworthy. And yet surely, in comparison to less peaceful places on the globe, being able to do just this is a blessing.

Confrontation may be in store around the southern perimeters of the Airport, where police cars are out in force at the moment. Tree-dwelling anti-runway protesters are the target of the operation, and the intention is to stop them from digging in. Many of them will agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed in this piece of graffiti which appeared recently on Oxford Street, and is seen by thousands of commuters every day.

Graffiti which appeared recently on one of Manchester's busiest streets
Graffiti which appeared recently on one of Manchester's busiest streets: Sentimental environmental
clap-trap or a timely warning for all of us?

"Education, education education", to quote Tony Blair, is a hot political issue at the moment, with arguments over class sizes, and schools opting out of Council control. Two schools in the Greater Manchester borough of Trafford decided this week not to opt out. Meanwhile in the city of Manchester 23 schools face closure due to falling pupil numbers.

Like teachers, the police also have a challenging job in big cities, especially when confronted with crimes as horrific as two committed this week. On Tuesday an elderley woman in Manchester was assaulted and robbed. Then the thieves reversed their car over her, injuring her seriously. And on Thursday night, a woman out with her 10 month old child in Little Hulton, Salford, was savagely attacked and raped.

Whatever you make of it, at least it succeeds, like Noel Gallagher's remarks, in raising awareness of the issue, and provoking debate, which can't be a bad thing.

Tree-dwellers or underground burrowers might have found the weather this week a bit on the chilly side, with temperatures only a few degrees above freezing, cold white overcast skies and a touch of drizzle, rounding off one of the driest January's for many years. By the end of the week, the skies looked brighter, but rain is forecast for the latter part of the weekend.

Text and photos by Aidan O'Rourke


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