A DUP assembly motion that the Troubles should not be reclassified as a "war" has been passed by 46 votes to 20.
How the Troubles should be described was debated
Speculation that the Consultative Group On The Past could suggest this had caused uproar among many unionists.
The group, co-chaired by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley, is to publish a report on how best to deal with the legacy of the Troubles in the summer.
DUP and Sinn Fein members clashed in the assembly during the debate on the motion.
Throughout the Troubles, successive governments and the security forces said they were dealing with criminal activity and a breakdown of law and order in Northern Ireland, not a war.
Democratic Unionist MLA Mervyn Storey told the assembly the consultative group should be under no illusions about the anger in unionism at such a proposal.
"We know that the IRA did not fight a war - for they ignored the international conventions that govern warfare," he said.
"We know too that they stand guilty of sectarian murder, ethnic or racial murder, and political assassination. So what exactly was their campaign about?
"Mr Speaker, they fought a seedy, grubby, sectarian terrorist campaign - nothing more and nothing less."
But Sinn Fein's Jennifer McCann said her party's supporters had "an entirely different view on the origins of the conflict" and accused unionists of point-scoring.
"It wasn't so long ago they were calling on the IRA to say the 'war' is over," she said.
"When it suited their political interests they had no problem using the word 'war'; now it seems to be a case of, like a scene from Fawlty Towers, 'don't mention the war'.
She added: "To the relatives of those who lost a loved one in the conflict, war, troubles, call it what you will, their loss is the same."
Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy accused republicans of trying to rewrite the past.
"In a very real sense you cannot rewrite history in any case, the past is exactly that: it's the past, warts and all," he said.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan also rejected the notion that the Troubles was a war.
However, he said his party would not support the DUP motion, which he claimed presented a skewed and biased view of the past, adding there had been "wrong on both sides".
Trevor Lunn from the cross-community Alliance Party said politicians from both sides had shown an inability to deal with the past in an impartial and balanced manner.
"The real issue here Mr Speaker is we have parties that are so entrenched in division that they can't even deal with the tragedies of the past 30 years without dividing it up," he said.