The High Court has heard that a family at the centre of a case concerning the recognition of international surrogacy arrangements may not have "the luxury of time" to wait for promised legislation on the issue.

The judge in the case has again urged the Government to speed up legislation on the issue as a matter of urgency.

The case concerns the parents of a boy born through gestational surrogacy abroad who say there is an urgent need for his genetic mother to be legally recognised because his father is battling a life threatening illness.

Brian and Kathy Egan could not be in court today because Mr Egan is in hospital receiving treament for cancer.

The couple say the State's failure to allow for the legal recognition of their son's genetic mother amounts to discrimination and a breach of his rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case was adjourned after it emerged last week that significant progress had been made in the preparation of legislation to deal with the issues.

However, when the case was mentioned before the High Court today, lawyers for the family said a letter from the Chief State Solicitors Office had caused some concern.

Senior Counsel Nuala Jackson said the letter stated that retrospective recognition would not take place until the proposed Assisted Human Reproduction Regulatory Authority is "set up and fully operational" for both retrospective and prospective surrogacy arrangements.

The letter also stated that it was not possible to give a definitive timeline for this.

Ms Jackson said it was clear that this may not be of assistance to the Egan family as they did not have the "luxury of that time".

Ms Egan said in those circumstances she would have to ask for the case to proceed next year.

Mr Justice John Jordan, who has twice severely criticised the lack of progress on the legislation, said he noted that significant progress had been made since the Egan's case began.

However he said any delay in enacting the legislation had to be viewed through "the prism of the life of the Egan family".

The judge said it did not seem to him to be beyond the bounds of possibility to deal with retrospective recognition of surrogacy arrangements before dealing with future cases. The judge said such measures "happen frequently in legislation and all of this could be dealt with in commencement orders regarding particular provisions of the legislation".

Judge Jordan said that was a matter for the legislature and not for the court. It was his wish that the matter be dealt with expediently and if it means through the court process then "so be it".

He added that it would "a terrible pity if this long awaited piece of historic legislation was not now drafted and passed as quickly as possible but using a yardstick of expediency in terms of days and weeks and not months and years".

The judge said while the Egan's case was perhaps unique and unusual it was necessary to make his remarks because the court had to accept and rely on the commitment given by the Government in the most recent letter.

He said despite the Christmas break, the focus between now and 23 January when the case returns to court should be on the "the following four words: 'as quickly as possible'".

The judge said he appreciated that the legislation was a matter for Government but the court "had a dilemma" where there is a case pending and the solution sought by the Egans appears to be addressed in the proposed legislation.

The absene of a timeframe was a source of huge stress to them.

Counsel for the State Mary O'Toole said expedition was "not in my gift" but said the judge's remarks would be conveyed to her clients.

The judge replied that it was "remarkable what can be done and what has been done in situations of urgency by the legislature when there is an acknowledgement of the importance of the urgency. It might well be that there is only one family involved in terms of extreme urgency but nonetheless it is an urgency which ought to be addressed."