Published Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Linda Ervine, pictured at the Irish lanaguage centre in east Belfast. (© Presseye)
Councillors Robert Burgess, Desmond Patterson and Walter Lyons left the council chambers on Monday night before Ms Ervine could speak about the historical links between Protestants and Irish.
In a tweet, Sinn Féin councillor Willie Clarke praised the presentation and criticised the UUP members who, in his words, "ignorantly left".
But the UUP has claimed that they took the decision because the Irish language had been used as "a political weapon".
Ulster Scots and Gaelic belong to us all.
In a statement on behalf of the party group on Down District Council, Walter Lyons said: "For years, the Irish language has been used as a political weapon by some in Down District Council - when instead, it could be used as a means of reconciliation.
"Unfortunately, the views of unionists and others have been ignored in the implementation of Irish language policy in Down Council."
However, he said the UUP councillors had been "delighted" to meet with Linda Ervine before the council meeting went ahead.
Mr Lyons added that they had "agreed to meet again at the East Belfast Mission to learn of the work that she does, to hear of positive aspects of the Irish language and to lend our support to her group".
Linda Ervine, who is an Irish language development worker in a loyalist area of east Belfast and the wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, has dismissed the row as a "storm in a teacup".
She confirmed that Mr Lyons had called her in advance about the plan to walk out and to explain why, adding on Twitter: "Sadly, language became embroiled in row over flags."
© UTV News