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Meet the Co Down civil engineer who is the only woman in a 100-plus team running the National Grid

In the second of our interviews to mark International Women's Day, Daisy Murray (25), from Warrenpoint, pays tribute to her mum, who died tragically young but left a huge and an inspiring legacy. Stephanie Bell reports

Daisy Murray embodies many of the qualities which International Women's Day seeks to celebrate. As the event is celebrated around the world today, Daisy is a shining example of a modern young woman confidently taking her place in the world and giving something back.

The 25-year-old, from Warrenpoint, sought early to break down gender barriers by deciding in her teens that she wanted to be a civil engineer.

Today, she works with the National Grid and is based in Kent, the only woman in a workforce of more than 100 men.

As well as a being successful young career woman who has shattered the glass ceiling, she turned a personal tragedy into a way of giving back to her local community in Northern Ireland.

Daisy has played a big part in setting up and now running a new community trust fund in memory of her late mum, Ann, whom she lost in 2014, aged 52, to cancer.

Peace building across communities and help for women and minority groups are just some of the types of projects which the Ann McGeeney Trust Fund is supporting.

Ann was a lifelong community worker and peace activist who began her working life in Crossmaglen as manager of the Regeneration of South Armagh community organisation.

The work supported by the fund includes the types of projects that were close to her heart - building good relations, helping minority groups - both indigenous and newly arrived - and assisting women's groups seeking to make a positive difference to women's lives.

It is Ann's passion for working with marginalised people and disadvantaged communities that her daughter Daisy, husband Jimmy (55) and younger daughter Holly (23), along with friends and wider family members, are now hoping to continue as a fitting legacy for her through the new trust fund.

Daisy says her mum's positive approach to life gave her the self-belief to pursue her career against the odds.

"My mother was my inspiration - she was hard-working and passionate about her job," she explains.

"It's her spirit that drives me to always try and push myself every day on site and to face any challenge head-on.

"I'm not the type to sit in an office and I always wanted a career that would get me out and about.

"By choosing engineering, I also wanted to challenge the stereotypes and show my worth. I was very conscious that engineering was a male environment.

"The construction industry is lacking in women, but I don't let that ever be an issue as I believe it is about you as an individual and how much effort you put into the job.

"I grew up surrounded by strong women my whole life, and mum taught us you can do anything you want if you put in the hard work and prove yourself.

"My mother also said to always look on the bright side of life, and that is exactly how I live mine.

"I absolutely love my job, even though it is a really challenging environment when you are out on site battling the elements and making big decisions."

Daisy's mum made a huge difference to the lives of many people over the years. Even after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she opted to continue to work right up until two weeks before her death.

She embraced life to the very end, continuing her weekly mountain walks with her daughter and family weekend breaks away, even though she knew her time was running out.

Ann, who was diagnosed in June 2013 and passed away in September 2014, instilled in Daisy a determination to make her mark in life too.

She recalls how her mum's cancer was discovered by accident when she attended A&E after a fall from her mountain bike.

"Mum and dad enjoyed mountain biking and one day mum had a fall off her bike.

"She felt a bit unsteady after it and dad took her to A&E as a precaution," she says.

"They didn't think anything of it, but at hospital they did scans and kept her in. They discovered she had cancer in her brain and liver and it was also in her blood and her bones.

"Mum didn't want to know how long she had. She didn't tell anybody and she kept working.

"We still had our family holidays and me and mum and Holly were always going to shows for weekends in Dublin and we kept that up.

"Mum just carried on as normal. Three weeks before she died, we had a family holiday in Cork.

"She was determined to live life as fully as she always had.

"Mum and I ran every Saturday in the mountains and we continued to do that.

"Mum always put everyone ahead of herself.

"She carried on working and would have done all-nighters.

"She was so passionate about her work and was a bit of a workaholic.

"Nobody knew how ill she was. Two weeks before she died, she got an infection, but up until then she was carrying on as normal."

Daisy had just graduated from Queen's University with a degree in civil and environmental engineering and had been offered a year's placement with the national grid in Kent.

She was due to start work the week her mum passed away.

Though her world had imploded, her dad Jimmy encouraged his daughter to carry on as planned because that would have been what her mum would have wished for her.

After her placement year, she returned to Queen's to complete a masters degree and was offered a full-time job with the National Grid.

Living in Kent, however, hasn't stopped her being hands-on with the trust fund, which is operated through the Community Foundation.

Daisy helped to organise a charity ball to get the fund up and running, and it has already made its first grants.

Application is via the Community Foundation website and is currently open for the next series of funding from the trust.

Daisy says: "Everybody knew mum and she helped so many people that we have been overwhelmed with people wanting to help out and support the trust.

"It is funny, but when we are planning anything, everybody asks the same question - 'What would Ann do?'

"We had a lot of meetings to get it up and going and the Community Foundation was fantastic in helping get it out there.

"The grants we give out are small, usually around £1,000. We follow up on all of them and see how the money is being used.

"We are currently due to discuss how we can continue fundraising as we open our second round of applications."

Among the community projects to benefit so far from the trust is a community healthy eating initiative aimed at young mothers, single parents and non-nationals; a gardening project which sees older people and ex-offenders come together to improve local community green space; funding towards an initiative which provides a safe space for separated parents to meet with their young children; and funding for a project working with vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees, including victims of torture.

Daisy says: "We had loads of applications, mostly from those who know mum and groups that she would have worked with. Mum worked a lot with women's groups and refugees, helping them to settle into this country.

"I think she would have loved that we have continued to do the work she was so passionate about.

"She would have been the one getting up at the front in the cookery class for single parents, very hands-on and doing her bit."

While Daisy works away from home, she says her mother is always with her, continuing to inspire her as she makes her mark in a challenging, male-dominated profession.

She adds: "People in England think my mum is still with us as I talk about her so much. She is always with me and she keeps me going. In my job I work really hard on site and I am the only girl among 120 men. I don't think about that, though. I think if you work hard and prove yourself, that's what matters.

"I get that from mum and also I think from my granny, who was a hard-working woman who lived on a farm.

"Really, it's about believing that you can do something and then going out and doing it. And I do think it is good to break stereotypes and show that we can all work together."

Applications for the trust fund are now open at mcgeeney-fund

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