Kilbride, Denis (1848–1924), agrarian campaigner and MP, was one of five sons of Thomas Kilbride of Lugacurran, Queen's County (Laois), farmer, and his wife, Maria Ryan. He was educated at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare. After leaving school he worked on his father's substantial 700 acre holding, to which he eventually succeeded, on the estate of the fifth marquis of Lansdowne (qv). The Kilbride family had sold their Lugacurran estate to the third marquis of Lansdowne in the 1820s, becoming large tenant farmers with sub-tenants, a fact that may have affected the subsequent dispute between Kilbride and Lord Lansdowne.
In October 1886 Lansdowne substantially reduced both the judicial and non-judicial rents on his Kerry estate where tenant farmers, on smallholdings of poor quality land, were in distress. Learning of the Kerry reductions, the Lugacurran tenants, under the leadership of Kilbride and William O'Brien (qv), demanded the same reductions, although they were substantial graziers on superior land and well able to meet their rents. Lord Lansdowne responded with an offer of smaller abatements to non-judicial rents and none to judicial rents, whereby the Lugacurran tenants adopted the plan of campaign and rents were withheld.
Kilbride, one of the largest tenants, was the first to be evicted from the Lugacurran estate, on 22 March 1887. He offered resistance to the eviction by felling large trees across the approach leading to his residence and, more irksome, by barricading himself in an upstairs room with iron gates and chains, all the while smoking cigars. The following month another seventy tenants were evicted for non-payment of rent, though Kilbride publicly admitted that the Lugacurran evictions differed from most others, as the tenants were able to pay but chose not to out of principle.
Kilbride's name became celebrated when O'Brien championed the cause of the Lugacurran tenants, and the two men decided to take their case in May 1887 to Canada, to denounce Lord Lansdowne, who had been governor-general of Canada since 1883. Their blustery enterprise backfired, however, as they were met with a cold reception in both Quebec and Ontario, where large public meetings were organised in opposition to the two men and their mission. Kilbride and O'Brien aroused such hostility that they narrowly escaped serious injury when they left their hotel in Toronto on May 18, and were met with a large crowd hurling abuse and stones. Similar scenes occurred in Kingston, and in Hamilton, where their coach driver was shot in the arm while conveying them from a public meeting.
After returning from the unsuccessful Canadian adventure that summer, Kilbride turned his attention to politics and was elected MP for South Kerry (1887–95), the constituency of Lansdowne's largest estate. As an MP he remained an agrarian agitator, and in February 1889 was imprisoned for three months for criminal conspiracy to prevent persons from taking farms from which tenants had been evicted. In 1895 he was elected for North Galway, a seat he held until 1900, the year in which he was publicly embarrassed by the appearance of his name in the bankruptcy columns of the English press. Kilbride and his brother Thomas were partners in a business as provision merchants in London. Kilbride, however, was attached to the partnership only in name, and had drawn no income from it for the previous three years, living solely from allowances out of political party funds. The bankruptcy may have caused his temporary political retirement, though he was soon back in the fray, sitting for South Kildare (1903–18).
Kilbride died 24 October 1924 at his home, Lugacurran House (formerly Lansdowne Lodge), having never married. Apart from Thomas, he had three other brothers: Valentine Kilbride, senior taxing master; Joseph Kilbride, RM; and Dr J. Kilbride.