Omagh Man Is Helping Pope Tackle Vatican Graffiti Problem

The iconic columns of the Vatican in Rome are protected for the next generation – thanks to an award-winning product being sold by Omagh man Paul Bradley.

As sales director of the UK and Ireland for French-based company Guard Industrie, he has already been involved in intensive testing of the stone at St Peter’s Square and is due to fly back to Italy in the next few weeks to oversee the beginning of an 18-month contract.

An approved Italian firm has been appointed to apply the unique product ‘ProtectGuard‘ which, after cleaning, will be sprayed on to the columns during the night to minimise disruption to the thousands of tourists who visit the famous enclosure each day. “As an Irishman with close connections to the Catholic Church, particularly my own church, St Patrick’s in Greencastle, it is very exciting and is one of our largest contracts to date, requiring 7,000 litres of ProtectGuard,” Mr Bradley told The Irish News yesterday. “The product was specially modified to suit the type of natural sandstone of St Peter’s and it works by increasing the surface tension of the stone or rock to which it is applied. “An invisible layer bonds to the surface and acts as a protector, repelling ink, paint, oil or pollutants from its surface.”

Mr Bradley said the reason representatives of Pope Francis approached the company for help was due to the amount of unsightly graffiti surfacing on the stone columns. “It was quite shocking to learn that people deface the stone at St Peter’s with graffiti, and of course, due to the nature of the building and the number of tourists, it has to be removed immediately,” he said. “Unfortunately, in their haste, the Vatican maintenance team used quite harsh, acid-based chemicals which started to erode the natural type of sandstone in the columns.”

ProtectGuard is well¬†known for its “anti-graffiti’ properties and has established itself as the industry benchmark for preventing degradation of porous materials, including concrete, cement and natural or synthetic stone, and blocking penetration of ink and paint pigments into their core.

“Its water-repellent¬†properties also enables it to prevent water penetration and thus eradicate the negative effects caused by humidity,” Mr Bradley added. “Made from 90 per cent water and 10 per cent copolymers – the active ingredient – ProtectGuard is eco-friendly and biodegradable and its effects last for 25 years.” Other world structures to have been ‘sprayed’ recently include a bridge in Algeria – “a massive job which required 12,000 litres” – and Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, as well as the surface of Custom House Square in Belfast.

But, for Mr Bradley, the ‘Italian Job’ remains the most impressive – and he’s even holding out for a private ‘thank you’ from the Pope himself.

“You never know, Pope Francis may come over and inspect the work himself,” he joked. “That would be the best seal of approval ever.”