My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, has policy responsibility for the postal sector. However, I am acutely aware of the value placed by rural communities on services such as the local post office.
Investment in rural Ireland is taking place right across Government. The Action Plan for Rural Development is a comprehensive cross-Government plan which sets out a wide range of measures focused on supporting and building sustainable communities, growing jobs and enterprise, improving access to services, maximising tourism, culture and heritage assets, and improving connectivity in rural areas.
The third progress report on the action plan was published in recent weeks and confirmed the progress being made, with more than 95% of actions completed or advanced.
The €1 billion investment provided through the rural regeneration and development fund will also bring positive benefits to rural communities. I was delighted to announce the first group, totalling 18 projects, to be supported by the fund last month.
My Department is also continuing to support the many vibrant towns and villages across rural Ireland through a range of other schemes and supports. The evidence of impact can be seen in growing opportunities for employment and improved quality of life across rural Ireland.
Of particular importance for those towns and villages most disadvantaged in terms of access to services are the CLÁR programme, the community enhancement programme, the town and village renewal scheme and the funding being provided to public libraries.
Additionally, funding delivered through the community services programme, LEADER and SICAP provides supports tailored to the specific needs of individual areas.
The Government is continuing to explore ways to sustain the viability of the post office network into the future. In October last, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment launched a new Digital Assist pilot initiative with An Post. Ten locations across the country will act as pilots for the provision of new services and I am delighted that my Department has been able to provide funding of €80,000 for this programme.